Background: Intimate partner violence (IPV) continues to be a pervasive health and social problem in the United States with serious short- and long-term consequences. Women in rural areas face particular challenges. Health care providers can play an important role in the lives of women who experience IPV; yet among providers, lack of knowledge, negative attitudes and beliefs, and low rates of screening are common.
Objective: Though a large body of research exists regarding health care providers’ IPV-related knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, little is known specifically with regard to rural providers. Given the challenges faced by rural women and the potential influence of their providers, it's important to understand rural providers’ IPV-related knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. We conducted a study to learn more.
Methods: Health care providers working in a large rural health network were asked to complete electronic surveys that examined their IPV-related knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Descriptive and correlational statistical analyses of the data were conducted.
Results: A total of 93 health care providers returned completed surveys. In general the respondents demonstrated good overall knowledge, judicious attitudes, and beliefs congruent with the available evidence related to IPV. Of concern were their knowledge and practice gaps regarding the prevalence of IPV, the higher risk of injury faced by women who leave their abusers, the ability of women to make appropriate choices about their situations, and what actions to take when someone discloses abuse.
Conclusion: The results of this study were encouraging with regard to the IPV-related knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of rural health care providers. But the findings also indicated important knowledge and practice gaps. Preparing providers to deliver compassionate, effective care to women who experience IPV is essential for the health and well-being of women and their families.