Measuring the benefits of family violence training

Before they completed family violence training, a majority of health professionals reported they were not engaging consumers about family violence on a regular basis.

This is one of the key findings of an evaluation conducted by a Monash University social work student, Kanchan Kharel, on placement with the Family Violence Unit.

With more than 4000 of our people trained in family violence awareness and sensitive enquiry, the Family Violence team has been gaining a greater insight into the results of their work and how it can be improved thanks to the training evaluation.

Kanchan’s study into participants’ pre and post training levels of comfort and understanding about family violence have revealed the benefits of the workshops and other face to face sessions.

Following training, 96 per cent of attendees reported feeling they had a far greater understanding of how to recognise family violence and more confidence about how to respond (based on a self-assessment questionnaire); up from 39 per cent before training.

For the ward-based (and shorter) training sessions, the starting point was 29 per cent, growing to 91 per cent.

More importantly, comfort in starting the conversation with patients, identifying and responding to family violence also increased.

The results of Kanchan’s paper, ‘Impact of Family Violence Training on Health Professionals: results and a way forward’ will be presented to the Family Violence Taskforce at its next meeting and the longer term aim will be to publish the findings.

In terms of the way forward, one of the key recommendations from Kanchan’s paper is to do further research to test how effectively our staff are now applying their knowledge in practice.

On their own recommendation, our people would like refresher training every six months.

Kanchan used pre and post evaluation data from Monash Health’s family violence training but also conducted a literature review to understand the need for Family violence training in hospitals, what had been done before, what the different methods of training were, all with a view to making the training more effective.

“Victoria might be taking a lead in Australia, but we still have a long way to go to build capacity, particularly compared with other developed nations like New Zealand, Canada, the United States and United Kingdom, which are all well in advance of where we are now.”

The evaluation report is the result of a three-month placement for the final year mature aged student. Kanchan, who hails from Nepal, comes to Monash and his social work studies already with a wealth of experience behind him. At Kathmandu University he lectured on youth and social change, he worked as a consultant to the United Nations at the United Nations Population Fund and also ran a youth-led NGO in Nepal called Yuwa.

His plans for the future involve working with young people in a mental health-related role but the opportunity to work with Monash Health in a role which combined his passion for mixing practitioner work and academia suited him down to the ground.

“It was a real privilege working in such a large organisation on a project where there is a lot going on. The Family Violence team has been running a lot of training but they had not evaluated the effectiveness of the training. This was an opportunity where there was a clear need to build the evidence base,” Kanchan said.

Kanchan’s placement supervisor and Family Violence Project Officer, Jess Bermudez, says evaluation of the training is one of the clear objectives of the Family Violence project, so this was a great opportunity to partner with Monash University in this work. “Research like this was always a priority but with the help of Kanchan we’ve been able to do it much faster and with someone who is very capable.

“We’re always looking to improve the way we do this and Kanchan’s findings can help us with that too. We will use the recommendations to help guide continuous improvements to the training.”

Jess says the findings also reflect her experience in delivering the training.

“People are shocked at the prevalence of family violence, especially in our catchment. People come in to training and they don’t really know much but the great thing is they are interested in learning more.”

Uncertainty of roles (in relation to family violence identification and referral) and lack of awareness about Monash Health’s family violence policies and clinical guidelines were also a concern to the Family Violence team on the back of the evaluation; something they will be seeking to address in coming months.

In the evaluations post training at Monash, staff indicated they would like additional assistance in the form of:

  • further education and resources on sensitive practice, managing disclosure, identifying early warning signs, IVOs, reporting and documentation
  • tips and techniques required in framing statements and asking the right questions
  • more information and knowledge on the referral pathways and mandatory reporting
  • arrangement of on-site social workers
  • debriefing opportunities and further institutional support.

They also identified the top three barriers to identifying family violence and making a referral as:

  • environmental constraints (lack of private place to discuss sensitive issues)
  • uncertainty about roles and responsibilities
  • lack of awareness of the issues.

Other barriers included inadequate communication, language barriers and cultural beliefs, personal safety concerns, fear and self-confidence, lack of support for victims once disclosed, lack of time and work pressure or presence of partner.

Kanchan says while the community is on its journey learning more about family violence his research findings show our people are also in the process of learning and admit they don’t know it all.



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