We sought to determine the proportion of Canadian emergency departments (EDs) that have intimate partner violence (IPV) universal screening programs and intervention policies and procedures. Of the EDs with programs, we determined what proportion had made changes in their practices during the past 10 years and since the 2003 Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care recommendations.
Using the same sampling methods as a 1994 study, we mailed questionnaires to nurse managers of a stratified, random sample of 250 out of 638 (39%) Canadian EDs and followed up with a series of telephone calls.
Of the 250 EDs initially contacted, 6 were excluded before the surveys were mailed. The response rate was 78.3% (191/244). Sixty-one (31.9%) of the studied EDs reported the existence of IPV policies and procedures. In this group, 26 (42.6%) applied universal screening and 13 (21.3%) implemented their screening policies after the 2003 national recommendations were published. When these results were compared with those of the 1994 study, there was no difference in the proportion of EDs with IPV policies and procedures or in the proportion of EDs that applied universal screening.
Despite increased research into IPV there was no significant change between 1994 and 2004 in the existence of IPV polices or universal screening in Canadian EDs. Policies and procedures that address appropriate responses to patients exposed to IPV should be a priority, with most emphasis directed toward developing effective interventions to which women can be referred.