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Emerg Med J. 2005 July; 22(7): 481–485.
PMCID: PMC1726830

Prevalence of victims of violence admitted to an emergency department

Abstract

Objective: To collect data on the consultation frequency and demographic profile of victims of violence attending an emergency department (ED) in Switzerland.

Methods: We undertook screening of all admitted adult patients (>16 years) in the ED of the CHUV, Lausanne, Switzerland, over a 1 month period, using a modified version of the Partner Violence Screen questionnaire. Exclusionary criteria were: life threatening injury (National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics score [gt-or-equal, slanted]4), or inability to understand or speak French, to give oral informed consent, or to be questioned without a family member or accompanying person being present. Data were collected on history of physical and/or psychological violence during the previous 12 months, the type of violence experienced by the patient, and if violence was the reason for the current consultation. Sociodemographic data were obtained from the registration documents.

Results: The final sample consisted of 1602 patients (participation rate of 77.2%), with a refusal rate of 1.1%. Violence during the past 12 months was reported by 11.4% of patients. Of the total sample, 25% stated that violence was the reason for the current consultation; of these, 95% of patients were confirmed as victims of violence by the ED physicians. Patients reporting violence were more likely to be young and separated from their partner. Men were more likely to be victims of public violence and women more commonly victims of domestic violence.

Conclusions: Based on this monthly prevalence rate, we estimate that over 3000 adults affected by violence consult our ED per annum. This underlines the importance of the problem and the need to address it. Health services organisations should establish measures to improve quality of care for victims. Guidelines and educational programmes for nurses and physicians should be developed in order to enhance providers' skills and basic knowledge of all types of violence, how to recognise and interact appropriately with victims, and where to refer these patients for follow up care in their local networks.


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