Nurses from across Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools traveled to UNC Charlotte’s campus recently for a workshop on diagnosing and dealing with child maltreatment.
School of Nursing clinical professor Kathy Jordan led the half-day event, which provided a comprehensive overview of child maltreatment, focusing on prevention, early recognition, intervention and treatment. More than 150 area nurses attended.
Jordan, a certified emergency nurse practitioner who researches and presents nationally on the issue, describes child maltreatment as a deeply troubling public health problem.
“The poignant reality is that child maltreatment is significantly under recognized and under reported by heath care providers,” she said. “As mandatory reporters, healthcare providers must have the knowledge, skill set, confidence and self-efficacy to fulfill this professional responsibility.”
From 2013-2014, Mecklenburg County investigated more than 13,000 cases of child abuse and neglect, and studies indicate only 1 in 3 children who experience maltreatment are identified by child protective services.
One reason for this, Jordan said, is that child maltreatment is often not addressed as part of nursing school curricula. In a 2015 study she conducted, less than half of nurses surveyed reported the topic was addressed in their program. Nurses also consistently requested continuing education to advance their skill in dealing with child maltreatment.
The knowledge gap becomes even more significant when considered in the context of where these nurses work, Jordan said.
“After a child’s home, the school is the most significant and influential environment in a child’s life.”
She added that school nurses occupy an important position in the interprofessional approach to keeping children safe, and can help bring together different parties in students’ lives.
The December workshop looked to help nurses fulfill this role by addressing barriers to the underreporting of child maltreatment. In addition to inadequate knowledge and experience, Jordan cited several other factors as contributors to the problem:
- reluctance to initiate involvement with law enforcement for investigative purposes;
- loyalty to the family; and
- concern that adverse consequences may result for the child and family.
Michelle Williams, a CMS nurse who attended the workshop, said sorting through these issues at the conference prepared her to better address child maltreatment at her school.
“Because she gave us real life cases I feel like the details given were relatable in children we care for on a daily bases. The details gave me more awareness and ability to recognize areas of child maltreatment that I can use in my everyday care of pediatrics.”
Williams called the workshop an “invaluable opportunity” for professional development.
“It raises awareness in an uncomfortable area that most people would like to forget exists in the world. Kathy was able to give us a foundation to recognize and potentially identify a child in need of help.”
by: Wills Citty