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As a nursing professional, you will be expected to maintain an environment where the patients are safe. They should not be at risk of harm from others. But there can be a case when you receive information from a patient that they have been harmed. This harm can come in the form of child abuse, domestic violence and elder abuse. As a nursing student, you get assignments where you have to identify laws, legislation and issues surrounding such cases.

Nursing and Child Abuse

Child abuse is more commonly identified as child maltreatment in Australia. Child maltreatment includes physical and emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect and exploitation. These issues harm the health of the child, hinders their development and degrades their dignity. Several studies have concluded over the years that one of the major causes of hospitalisation of children is maltreatment. Nurses bring out several cases of child abuse and report them to the authorities. Since nurses make the largest population of hospital workers, Australian universities are including education about child abuse. As a nurse, you should be aware of the various mandatory laws that define the legislative requirements for child abuse. You can find an overview of laws according to the state and territory you have to analyse at the official website of the Australian Institute of Family Studies. The law governing child rights and defining the duty of the nurses is the Children and Young People Act 2008. This act includes laws that provide for and promote the well-being, care and protection of children and young people. This act recognises their right to grow in a safe environment. It is this law that prevents abuse and neglect of children by the people who have to provide government assistance to children, the family, the parents and any other person responsible.

Nursing and Domestic Abuse

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation identifies domestic violence as a series of behaviour which -

  • Include verbal abuse, physical assault, sexual attacks, financial abuse, psychological abuse and emotional abuse.
  • Instil fear in the victim’s mind
  • Is an attempt by one partner to gain authority and power over the other partner.

Nurses are a group of healthcare workers whose centre of operation lies in ethics. They use intervention and health promotion in their work to improve the health of others. But nurses face a problem when the victim does not report abuse and assault to the nurses. This was confirmed by a study which concluded that 79% of women who faced physical abuse and 81.25% women who experienced sexual assault had not resorted to professional health. When you have to identify the victims of domestic violence, take the following points into consideration -

  • Bruising in chest
  • Repeated injuries
  • Ruptured eardrums
  • Multiple injuries
  • Minor lacerations

If your assignment has women confirming domestic violence, you can respond by -


Listen to their story. It helps them share the burden and empower them.

Believe them

Instead of responding “For real?”, be more positive. Show them that you believe their story by saying “That must be so horrible. I am so sorry.”

Appreciate them

Not many women report domestic violence. They do not even share it with their closed ones. And if she confirmed it with you, be sure to appreciate her. “I am glad that you got that out of your heart.”, “I know it must have been hard for you to share this.”, etc.

Empower them

You heard them, believed them and appreciated them. Now you must stress that this kind of stuff is intolerable. Empower them to stand against domestic violence.

To know the role of Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation for domestic violence, click here.

Nursing and Elder Abuse

Whether a person is being cared for in their home or in residential aged care, they have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Any relationship where there is an imbalance of power resulting in harm is elder abuse. The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation identify elder abuse as “single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.” The Aged Care Act 2007introduced mandatory reporting of people in aged care. To read about the laws that govern aged care, visit the Federal Register of Legislation. To read what does Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation say about elder abuse and the role of nurses in such a situation, click here.

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