How Radiologists Can Play a Role in Ending Domestic Violence

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) estimates that 20 people suffer domestic abuse at the hands of a partner every minute of every day in the US. That works out to more than 10 million victims. While those numbers certainly represent a serious problem, radiologists can play a role in doing something about it.

If there was ever the need for a reason to encourage people to go into radiology, it would be the reality of domestic violence. According to a study recently published in the Radiology journal, radiologists can help combat domestic violence by learning to identify certain patterns and then working with others to help care for patients identified as abuse victims.

A Serious Health Problem

The study in question identifies domestic violence as a “serious, preventable social and public health problem.” Study authors explained how radiology has emerged to become a tool for detecting the effects of domestic violence in patients seeking medical care. They specifically mentioned children and intimate partners.

According to the researchers, radiologists are often in a position of being able to work both with victims and abusers simultaneously. By observing injuries, asking the right questions, and following up on what is learned in the emergency department, they can network with other professionals to identify when abuse is taking place.

The study’s conclusions were based on an investigation into more than 700 medical records from January 2015 through October 2016. The records were from cases treated in emergency departments. They were compared against medical records and imaging exams from the previous five years.

As confident as the researchers are in their results, they have decided not to stop here. A second phase of the study is planned for the near future. In that phase, researchers will be using machine learning technologies to analyze data in hopes of developing a system that can recognize signs of domestic violence and then alert clinicians to that possibility.

Such a system would hopefully motivate clinicians to open a dialogue with patients they suspect may be involved in an abusive situation. Researchers also plan to create conversational guides for clinicians and social workers.

What It Means to Future Radiologists

None of this may mean anything to you if you’re not currently involved in radiology. But if you have any thoughts of a future radiology, take what you’ve read here as motivation to move forward. Pursuing a career in radiology offers you the opportunity to make a real difference in a lot of lives.

Radiology is a discipline that uses imaging equipment to diagnose injuries and certain kinds of illnesses and diseases. A radiologist studies images and consults with internists to come up with an accurate diagnosis. Often times, a trained radiologist can spot things that the internist misses.

As a future radiologist, you may be working with patients victimized by domestic violence. The nature of their injuries might be missed by doctors and nurses, but your experience will tell you something is amiss. You’ll have the opportunity to offer your opinion in a way that causes emergency room doctors and nurses to take a second look.

Perhaps you have been thinking of a medical career in a discipline other than radiology. That’s great. But would you at least give radiology a look? This is one form of medicine that doesn’t get talked about a lot, but it is vitally important, nonetheless. Radiology serves a vital role in our healthcare system. Research seems to suggest it’s a role that may be expanding the more we learn about domestic violence.

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