New tailored family violence training for primary care

Morgan Liotta

24/08/2021 5:03:31 PM

GPs had previously reported a lack of access to existing resources, an issue the national training program will aim to remedy.

Woman sitting with GP
A lack of access to existing training resources has cited as a barrier for GPs when attempting to address domestic and family violence.

The program stems from a recent systematic review conducted by the University of Melbourne’s Safer Families Centre of Research Excellence, which examined how to best prepare health practitioners to address domestic and family violence (DFV) and what factors are important to focus on in training content.
It found that one barrier GPs have previously faced when attempting to address DFV is a lack of access to existing training resources.
To help bridge this gap, the Safer Families Centre developed The Readiness Program – Primary care’s readiness to address domestic and family violence, which aims to provide an integrated, sustainable approach to addressing DFV.
‘Our model uses a supportive approach to address any barriers, providing examples of how to ask and respond, working as a team and links with local services, which is more likely to lead to success,’ Professor Kelsey Hegarty, Safer Families Centre Director, told newsGP.
The Federal Government-funded, national program provides training for the primary healthcare workforce to address DFV, in partnership with the RACGP, Blue Knot Foundation and Phoenix Australia.
Incorporating a range of platforms to suit different learning needs, the program aims to build capacity to more effectively recognise, respond, refer and record disclosures of DFV using a trauma- and violence-informed approach.
According to Professor Hegarty, using these approaches will ensure pathways to safety and wellbeing to improve family safety, health and functioning, as training is an important component of upskilling in this area for GPs.
‘At least one in 10 women attending general practice will have experienced DFV, thus a full-time GP may be seeing up to five survivor women per week, who may not all be identified by GPs,’ she said.
‘We understand how time-poor primary care staff are; however, evidence shows primary care has a crucial role to play in addressing DFV.’
The program includes a range of learning options for GPs, nurses and other practice staff members, and offers evidence-based training on how to tailor responses to individual children, young people, women and men in families where violence occurs, including:

  • an RACGP webinar series on topics based on the White Book
  • eLearning modules on a range of DFV-related topics
  • training workshops, including advanced skills in trauma- and violence-informed care across the family and the life online course
  • the opportunity to engage in a GP-led online Community of Practice with others participating in the program
  • Pathways to Safety – virtual practice-centred learning with advanced skills and a whole-of-practice approach, commencing in Tasmania in September.
Professor Hegarty said the Pathways to Safety learning component aims to streamline pathways and reinforce a team approach to recognition of, and referral for, DFV.
‘Pathways to Safety specifically aims to be a practical clinical program that improves identification, safety assessment, referrals and support for those experiencing or at risk of DFV, including children and those who use DFV,’ she said.
Based on the knowledge that certain types of activities are more likely to result in long-term behaviour change for primary care staff than other strategies, the Readiness Program has a particular focus on the whole-of-practice-centred learning component.
At the end of the training primary care staff should be able to respectfully engage with patients experiencing DFV, review and implement changes to enhance response, and reflect on their own attitudes which might facilitate or inhibit effective engagement.
Professor Hegarty also said it should allow clinical staff to:
  • recognise individuals and families presenting with symptoms and signs of DFV
  • risk assess for the safety of women and children
  • respond to disclosures using World Health Organization-recommended responses
  • refer appropriately and record and share information in a safe, effective manner.
The Readiness Program is also involved in the redevelopment of the RACGP White Book, for which Professor Hegarty is clinical editor. The next edition of the White Book is due for release late 2021.
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