April 19, 2023
While working in health care, you may come across people of all ages and genders with significant or minor injuries, and determining if that was caused by abuse can be tough. If you suspect that your patient was injured due to negligent or abusive care, then you have an obligation to act and report it to the appropriate authorities to help the patient.
According to the National Association of Mandated Reporters, mandated reporters are "people required by law to report suspected or known instances of abuse," including "known or suspected abuse or neglect relating to children, elders, or dependent adults." Currently, there are 47 states that have designated professions wherein workers are mandated to report child maltreatment.1
Health care workers are in a unique position to protect the most vulnerable of our populations — children, the disabled and the elderly, but this can also include adults that fall victim to domestic abuse.
Types of abuse
The NAMR lists violence against children, elders, intimate partners and adults with disabilities as major forms of abuse that can be reported by health care professionals.2
Identify abuse and neglect in patients
Identifying abuse in your patients is an important part of your assessment as a health care worker. For elders, there’s an Elder Abuse Suspicion Index that asks a patient six questions that can help determine if they are experiencing abuse.
A few signs of child abuse may be lack of supervision by an adult; withdrawn or depressed behavior; unaddressed medical issues, cuts, bruises and burns; obvious parental indifference; or a statement by the child that they’re always alone. For intimate partners, most instances occur at home, and the victims are often at a significant risk for further injury if there is no intervention.
Document and report abuse
Health care workers must keep detailed notes of every patient they interact with, so including actual or suspected abuse is crucial to helping the patient. Leaving out feelings, judgements and opinions may be hard to do but is needed to help the case.
If you believe someone is in immediate or serious danger, call your local law enforcement agency to help. For children, call your local Child Protective Services (CPS) office or Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline.7 For adults, there’s Adult Protective Services that you can reached out to or the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
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