Background on Provider Education
What is provider education for sexual assault prevention?
- Provider education strategies give information, resources and support to providers for counseling or providing services to individuals to prevent or reduce sexual assault.
- Traditionally, health care providers include those professionally trained to work in clinical settings, such as physicians, nurses or psychologists. For community-based interventions, providers may also include individuals working in schools such as school nurses or guidance counselors, worksites including worksite wellness professionals, faith-based organizations such as health ministers or parish nurses and other private or public community settings such as crisis prevention staff or advocates to prevent abuse and violence.
- These strategies may involve training, reminders or prompts to assist providers’ interaction with their patients or clients.
- Educating providers to counsel their patients or clients can:
- provide information about the benefits of intervening to reduce the negative effects of sexual assault and/or prevent sexual assault from occurring;
- improve culturally competent communication between individuals and health care providers;
- improve coordination and use of services for victims (adults and children) of sexual assault and their family members;
- provide sexual abuse examinations and ensure proper collection of evidence;
- reduce sexual assault risk among adults and children; and
- address ethical and professional issues related to sexual assaults.
How can I use provider education strategies to prevent or reduce sexual assaults?
- Health care providers are a primary and respected source of health information. Many individuals and families seek out the advice of health care providers to maintain their health and quality of life on a regular basis. Therefore, health care providers and practitioners are ideally suited to have an ongoing influence on decisions to prevent or reduce sexual assault.
- Provider education, when used alone, can help to counsel sexual assault victims. Providers can give recommendations and support to patients and clients who are in need of services, such as physical injuries or emotional support. Therefore, provider education may be particularly useful in helping individuals become ready to report the incident and accept or seek services.
- Previous work shows that interventions with provider education and other strategies that act to create changes in policies, environments, knowledge/awareness or skills are more effective than the use of provider education strategies alone.
What are the different strategies to prevent or reduce sexual assault?
- Provider education refers to the training of providers to enhance their interaction with patients and clients. The information given to patients or clients may be provided face-to-face or over the phone, during a single session or over multiple sessions or through informational materials including brochures or videos. During the interactions with patients or clients, providers typically provide the following activities:
- An assessment of an individual’s knowledge and beliefs. As part of this, they may discuss the importance of sexual assault awareness and prevention.
- An opportunity for the individual to ask questions or clarify what they have been told. This exchange with the provider can help to ensure that the individual understands the information and recommendations that they have been provided.
- Referrals and resources within the community to assist the individual in following recommendations for sexual assault prevention, such as hotlines, counseling or legal services.
- Follow up with the patient or client, including a re-assessment of the individual’s behaviors and a discussion of challenges, benefits and advice for continuing these behaviors over time.
- Provider reminder systems are another part of provider training. Provider reminder systems give cues or prompts to providers to increase the likelihood that they will discuss sexual assault prevention with clients or patients. Provider reminder systems use different types of prompts including:
- changes to the individual’s file, such as stickers or colored folders;
- changes in the physical environment, such as posters in exam rooms; or
- personal prompts, such as laminated pocket-sized information sheets, computerized systems, faxes, emails or brochures.
- Both of these strategies may be used with individuals who have experienced sexual assault, those who have committed sexual assault or those at risk of sexual assault.
What do I need to know to develop provider education strategies?
- Provider education training works best if it is hands-on and practical. This may include discussions among providers about how to counsel or provide advice to specific individuals, how to respond to individual barriers, how to reach high-risk individuals, how to work in different settings and how to build these strategies into the provider’s practice style.
- Previous studies show it is important to consider strategies over a longer time period, provide specific advice to individuals based on their unique circumstances and train providers on community and policy influences on these behaviors. It is also useful to share methods for patient tracking, repeat counseling and referrals.
- It is difficult to understand the effectiveness of these interventions because the interaction between the provider and individual is unique for each individual, short in duration (often less than 5 minutes), may involve recommendations for multiple behaviors at once or may lack institutional support for sharing this type of information during a visit.
Who do I work with to create provider education strategies?
- To develop your provider education, you may want to work with the following individuals or groups:
- health departments
- health care providers
- civic and community organizations, such as Head Start, Boy/Girl Scouts, YMCA, YWCA or 4H Club
- senior/independent living facilities
- faith-based organizations
- neighborhood organizations and community members
- community coalitions
- researchers and evaluators
- advocacy organizations
- community leaders
- policy makers
- support groups
- law enforcement
- justice system, such as judges, prosecutors or defenders
- media, such as newspaper, billboards, television or radio
- communications or advertising agencies