Effectiveness of healthcare clinical champions in family violence: A pilot study

Dr Toni Withiel1, Dr Marlena Klaic1,2, Dr Caroline Fisher1,3

1Melbourne Health, Parkville, Melbourne, Australia, 2Melbourne University, Parkville, Melbourne, Australia, 3The Melbourne Clinic, Richmond, Melbourne, Australia

Background: Family violence is a health and welfare issue. Healthcare services play an important role in identifying and responding to violence, with a growing expectation that clinicians have the knowledge and skills to support victim/survivors. Training programs that target clinician skills and knowledge have been implemented, yet, little is known about the effectiveness of these programs specifically in the family violence sphere.

Objectives: To evaluate the effectiveness of a multifaceted training program targeting clinician knowledge, skills and behaviours in screening for and responding to family violence.

Method: This prospective, interventional study was conducted at a tertiary trauma hospital in Melbourne, Victoria. Participants were predominantly allied health clinicians, but also included nurses and care co-ordinators. Participants completed a two-staged, multi-faceted training program encompassing aspects of a clinical champion’s model, Common Risk Assessment Framework training and peer network meetings as part of a community of practice. Outcome assessment longitudinally over 12 -15 months evaluated change in self-reported clinical skills, knowledge, and confidence at baseline, post intervention and at two follow up points.

Results: Forty five clinicians participated, with 41 completing outcome assessments at least once, with varying participation rates across time points. Data showed significant and sustained improvements were found in levels of self-reported family violence knowledge, confidence and frequency of screening.

Conclusion: An in-depth, multifaceted training program can improve confidence, knowledge and skills in identifying and responding to family violence. Importantly, this model also demonstrated a change in clinical practice, with healthcare staff reporting an increase in screening for family violence.


Toni Withiel holds the position of Allied Health Translation and Researcher leader at the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) and works clinically as a Neuropsychology Registrar. She is an Early Career Researcher having completed her Clinical Doctorate in 2018. Toni is a part of the Family Safety Team at the RMH and has assisted in the evaluation of FV training effectiveness. She has 13 peer reviewed research publications with over 60 citations of her work. She has five published/in press studies in the area of FV response in healthcare, and has presented two how-to seminar conference presentations on improving clinician healthcare capacity to identify, screen and assist clients experiencing FV.

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