Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Are clinicians being prepared to care for abused women? A survey of health professional education in Ontario, Canada

C Nadine Wathen1*, Masako Tanaka2, Cristina Catallo3, Adrianne C Lebner4, M Kinneret Friedman5, Mark D Hanson2, Clare Freeman6, Susan M Jack3, Ellen Jamieson2, Harriet L MacMillan27 and the McMaster IPV Education Research Team

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Information & Media Studies, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada

2 Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

3 School of Nursing, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

4 Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

5 Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

6 Interval House of Hamilton-Wentworth, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

7 Departments of Pediatrics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

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BMC Medical Education 2009, 9:34  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-9-34

Published: 18 June 2009



The current project undertook a province-wide survey and environmental scan of educational opportunities available to future health care providers on the topic of intimate partner violence (IPV) against women.


A team of experts identified university and college programs in Ontario, Canada as potential providers of IPV education to students in health care professions at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels. A telephone survey with contacts representing these programs was conducted between October 2005 and March 2006. The survey asked whether IPV-specific education was provided to learners, and if so, how and by whom.


In total, 222 eligible programs in dentistry, medicine, nursing and other allied health professions were surveyed, and 95% (212/222) of programs responded. Of these, 57% reported offering some form of IPV-specific education, with undergraduate nursing (83%) and allied health (82%) programs having the highest rates. Fewer than half of undergraduate medical (43%) and dentistry (46%) programs offered IPV content. Postgraduate programs ranged from no IPV content provision (dentistry) to 41% offering content (nursing).


Significant variability exists across program areas regarding the methods for IPV education, its delivery and evaluation. The results of this project highlight that expectations for an active and consistent response by health care professionals to women experiencing the effects of violence may not match the realities of professional preparation.