Open Access Research article

Barriers to and facilitators for screening women for intimate partner violence in surgical fracture clinics: a qualitative descriptive approach

Sheila Sprague1*, Marilyn Swinton1, Kim Madden1, Rukia Swaleh1, J Carel Goslings2, Brad Petrisor3 and Mohit Bhandari13

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Epidemiology & Biostatistics, McMaster University, 293 Wellington St. N Suite 110, Hamilton, ON L8L 8E7, Canada

2 Trauma Unit, Department of Surgery, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 9, Amsterdam, AZ 1105, The Netherlands

3 Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, Department of Surgery, McMaster University, 293 Wellington St. N Suite 110, Hamilton, ON L8L 8E7, Canada

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2013, 14:122  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-14-122

Published: 5 April 2013



Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is a major health issue that involves any physical, sexual or psychological harm inflicted by a current or former partner. Musculoskeletal injuries represent the second most prevalent clinical manifestation of IPV. Health care professionals, however, rarely screen women for IPV. Using qualitative methods, this study aimed to explore the perceived barriers to IPV screening and potential facilitators for overcoming these barriers among orthopaedic surgeons and surgical trainees.


We conducted three focus groups with orthopaedic surgeons, senior surgical trainees, and junior surgical trainees. A semi-structured focus group guide was used to structure the discussions. Transcripts and field notes from the focus groups were analyzed using the qualitative software program N’Vivo (version 10.0; QSR International, Melbourne, Australia). To further inform our focus group findings and discuss policy changes, we conducted interviews with two opinion leaders in the field of orthopaedics. Similar to the focus groups, the interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed, and then analyzed.


In the analysis, four categories of barriers were identified: surgeon perception barriers; perceived patient barriers; fracture clinic barriers and orthopaedic health care professional barriers. Some of the facilitators identified included availability of a crisis team; development of a screening form; presence of IPV posters or buttons in the fracture clinic; and the need for established policy or government support for IPV screening. The interviewees identified the need for: the introduction of evidence-based policy aiming to increase awareness about IPV among health care professionals working within the fracture clinic setting, fostering local and national champions for IPV screening, and the need to generate change on a local level.


There are a number of perceived barriers to screening women in the fracture clinic for IPV, many of which can be addressed through increased education and training, and additional resources in the fracture clinic. Orthopaedic health care professionals are supportive of implementing an IPV screening program in the orthopaedic fracture clinic.

Intimate partner violence (IPV); Musculoskeletal injuries; Barriers; Screening