Medical Education on Family Violence

Title of Project: Family Violence in Medical Education: Qualitative Perspectives from Medical Students

My Role: Co-Principal Investigator

Funding Source: Violence, Education, Guidance, Action (VEGA) Project

Physicians have reported numerous challenges related to their ability to ask about  family violence – including exposure to  intimate partner violence (IPV) and child maltreatment (CM)-in health care contexts. These challenges include experiencing personal discomfort when inquiring about violence, time constraints that prohibit the opportunity to sensitively ask about these experiences, lack of resources to respond to violence disclosures, and lack of training to identify and respond to these experiences in practice. It is possible however, that physician challenges in relation to asking about family violence in their practice, reflects a greater need for foundational teaching about family violence in medical school. A recent cross-sectional survey that was distributed to medical and allied-health education programs across Ontario indicated that only 43% of the available and participating undergraduate medical programs include IPV education in their curricula and average teaching time devoted to IPV ranged from one to four hours (Wathen et al., 2009). Unfortunately, little is known about the learner’s perception of this education, nor is it clear the extent to which these medical programs offer instruction on other forms of family violence and the extent to which the education that is offered, is mandatory or elective.

This study is part of a project called VEGA (Violence Evidence Guidance Action), the goal of which is to develop evidence-based guidance and a curriculum to assist health and social service providers in responding to family violence. The primary goal of this project is to inform the VEGA project of the shortcomings, challenges and implementation issues of family violence education in medical schools from the perspective of the medical students.

This study is currently recruiting pre-clerkship medical students who are attending medical school in Southern Ontario. Please contact the research team at kimberms@mcmaster.ca for more information.