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Nursing conference will present new strategies to help women experiencing violence

Aug 29, 2018
Guylaine Spencer

Susan Jack

Above: Dr. Susan Jack, president of The Nursing Network on Violence Against Women International

One in three women will experience some form of violence in their lifetime.

It’s a shocking statistic, but sadly familiar to Dr. Susan Jack, president of The Nursing Network on Violence Against Women International (NNVAWI) and  an associate professor in the School of Nursing at McMaster University. “Violence against women is a global health issue,” she says. 

NNVAWI is hosting an international conference from September 26-28, 2018 in Niagara-on-the-Lake, which will bring together those working in the field to discuss new ways to help women, youth and children who are experiencing violence. Delegates are coming from Europe, Africa, Australia, and all over the United States and Canada, Jack says. “Globally, nurse researchers have been on the leading edge of developing innovations in this area,” says Jack.

Nurses and other health care providers on the front lines often encounter individuals experiencing the physical and mental effects of violence, so “it is essential that they have knowledge about how to safely recognize and respond to disclosures of intimate partner violence (IPV) in their practice,” Jack says. The NNVAWI was established in 1985 to support nurses in this work and to provide a network for nursing leaders to advance research, practice, education, and policy in this field.

The conference, which is hosted by the Labatt Family School of Nursing, Western University, will start with two workshops aimed at health care practitioners. In the first workshop, “Creating Safety: Practical Strategies for Trauma and Violence-Informed Care” participants will be provided with resources, tools and strategies to ensure that their clinical encounters with individuals who have experienced trauma or violence are as safe as possible. A second workshop on “Risk Assessment using the Danger Assessment and the DA-5” will also be offered. This training will allow a clinician to identify a woman’s risk of being killed or seriously injured by an intimate partner. Jack notes that “these would be excellent professional development opportunities for local nurses and faculty to attend. Spots are still available and they can register for these one-day pre-conference workshops.”

Several scholars from McMaster University will be making presentations. “Within the School of Nursing and the Faculty of Health Sciences, there are many researchers and graduate students who are advancing our knowledge about evidence-informed responses to violence,” Jack notes.

“We are very excited that the McMaster School of Nursing has sponsored one of the plenary sessions. It will feature Dr. Bernice Downey and Marilee Nowgesic. Downey is an assistant professor in the School of Nursing and the Dept. of Psychiatry. She is also the Indigenous Health Initiative Lead, Faculty of Health Sciences. Nowgesic is the executive director of the Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association. We will have an opportunity to share with our global partners the work that is being done to address violence against Indigenous women,” says Jack.   Downey notes that “the Indigenous perspective will be presented within the broader socio-historical, anti-oppression and anti-racism context.”  

Here are some of the global initiatives involving Canadian NNVAWI members:

  1. Dr. Jack and her colleague Dr. Harriet MacMillan have developed and are evaluating training for nurse home visitors in the Nurse-Family Partnership Program. This training will help nurses work with pregnant women who may be experiencing violence from their partners.
  2. Nurse researchers at UBC, Western, and the University of New Brunswick have developed and are evaluating iHEAL, which stands for “Intervention for Health Enhancement and Living”. This program helps women who have experienced violence and it is delivered by community health nurses.
  3. VEGA (  - Violence Evidence Guidance Action. This group, co-led by Dr. Harriet MacMillan (McMaster) and Dr. Nadine Wathen (Western) is developing guidance, a clinical handbook and tools, and curricula to aid health and social service professionals across Canada in addressing family violence.

For more information, see the conference program at:, under conference, program tab.



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