Council of the National Academies established a multidisciplinary committee to examine what is currently known about the training needs of health professionals to respond to family violence. The Committee on the Training Needs of Health Professionals to Respond to Family Violence was asked to examine existing curricula for health professionals on family violence and current efforts to foster their knowledge and skills in this area. The committee focused its review on the six professional groups it considered most likely to encounter family violence victims early in the evaluative process and thus to have significant educational needs related to screening, diagnosing, treating, and preventing family violence. The six groups are: physicians, physician assistants, nurses, psychologists, social workers, and dentists. This focus on these professions is not intended to suggest that other professions do not have important roles in responding to family violence.
This committee is not the first to address the issue of family violence or to make recommendations for research, education, and practice to address it. Many of the difficulties identified in this report have been encountered before. Time and again in the past decade, groups of researchers, government officials, law enforcement professionals, social service providers, and health care professionals have convened to discuss the research and policy needed to address family violence. To date there has been little response to calls for improvements in the research base, increased funding, or collaboration among those concerned about family violence.
The problems identified by previous groups have not abated. In fact, the conclusions and recommendations in this report underscore problems that have been known to exist for decades. Building on the work of previous groups, we focus here specifically on the issues with the greatest impact on the training and education of health professionals to respond to family violence.
On the basis of its assessment and deliberations, the committee draws a number of conclusions regarding the current state of health professional training on family violence and makes recommendations to direct future efforts. These conclusions and recommendations address two major concerns: resources and coordination for education research and curricular development to expand the knowledge base and inform policy and practice, and curricular content and teaching strategies.
Although the committee’s review of available data suggests that family violence is widespread in the United States, its actual prevalence is unknown. Several critical examinations have eloquently described the paucity of data and