Health care providers such as school nurses, family doctors, health clinics and medical centers can be key to both intervention and prevention. Health care providers are people that young teens and their parents look to and trust. Engaging the health community takes time for learning, however. Without guidance, many health professionals find it difficult to include conversations about healthy relationships and relationship abuse in routine appointments with teens.
- Training Needs Vary Greatly: Many health providers, especially school nurses, understand the teen dating violence issue because they see its consequences regularly. But others in the health care system are accustomed to diagnosing conditions based on symptoms and may be uncomfortable talking with teens about healthy relationships as a preventative measure. Some may have trouble identifying symptoms of teen dating violence.
- Time & Privacy Are in Short Supply: Most school nurses’ offices do not have private places for students to share confidential information and the high student-to-nurse ratio leaves nurses unable to give needy students adequate attention. Doctors and nurse practitioners also may face time constraints—in Medicaid environments, they have only 15-18 minutes per patient. Consider time and space limitations in your programming, and try to offer practical solutions.
- Embed Your Tools: Help health care professionals overcome time constraints by embedding teen dating violence prevention tools into systems that they already use. Screening for dating violence can be incorporated into patient questionnaires and healthy relationship topics can be embedded in required school and sports physicals.
- Partner Up: Collaborate with health care organizations and professionals that are already committed to or aware of teen dating violence issues, like health clinics working with teens, teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease prevention programs or local domestic violence nonprofits.