A team that worked with a charity to set up a domestic violence service in an emergency department has been shortlisted in the Liverpool Victoria Innovations in your Specialty Award, part of the 2015 Nursing Standard Nurse Awards.

Nursing Standard Nurse Awards nominee, Amanda Burston

Amanda Burston, finalist in the Innovations In Your Specialty Award. Picture credit: John Hoolihan

Safer Steps not only raises awareness of domestic violence but has also introduced a range of innovative measures enabling people to report abuse and seek help.

The team will find out if they have won the award at a ceremony at the Savoy Hotel, London, on May 1.

The project has helped more than 400 victims of abuse since it started three years ago.

The partnership with domestic violence charity Arch includes extensive training for all staff at Royal Stoke University Hospital, part of University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust.

Major trauma co-ordinator Amanda Burston, chair of the 16-strong steering group, says: ‘Statistics suggest that 12% of people attending A&E are likely to be there because of domestic violence. We were clearly missing a lot of opportunities.’

She spearheaded the creation of a domestic violence interest group, with representatives from the police, domestic violence charity Arch and the local council, along with children’s nurses, consultants, adult nurses, healthcare support workers, the adult safeguarding nurse and the child protection lead nurse.

Arch delivers basic awareness one-hour sessions plus a full day’s intense training to more than 200 members of staff.

‘The training included recognising the signs and symptoms of domestic violence and giving staff tools to help,’ Amanda explains. It is now delivered at all new doctor and nurse induction sessions, as well as to a much wider trust audience through open days.

Crucially, a direct referral service to Arch counsellors has been established. The charity’s head of domestic violence services, Wendy Wainwright, says this offers major benefits. ‘We get to meet with victims very quickly and can offer a range of support services.’

Changing attitudes in the department was crucial to the success of the service. This included changing people’s understanding of domestic abuse and the role of nurses and doctors.

‘Once all staff understood the easy referral process, we got immediate engagement,’ says Amanda.

A range of discreet measures enable victims to alert staff, so they can find the safest time to offer support. These include posters in areas where a patient may have an opportunity to approach staff in confidence. Staff also wear badges that say ‘You CAN ask me about domestic violence’, encouraging the conversation to take place.

‘We looked at domestic violence services in other emergency departments, but did not find any trust delivering this type of service,’ says Amanda. ‘It was pioneering – a new adventure into unknown territory.’

However, it had an unexpected impact on the hospital’s own staff. ‘As a result of the awareness raising and training sessions, a number of staff members confided their own stories of domestic violence. They have since received support from Arch,’ says Amanda.

Chief nurse Liz Rix says the trust is ‘extremely proud’ of Amanda. ‘Being shortlisted from more than 700 entries for the Nursing Standard Nurse Awards is an exceptional achievement,’ she says.

‘Amanda has shown a real dedication to helping the people she works with and raising awareness of domestic violence with colleagues across the trust, which is committed to supporting victims of domestic violence.’

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