Keeping Medical Professional’s Families Safe

Domestic violence can affect families from all backgrounds, and that includes the families of medical professionals. Domestic violence is not caused by drinking, anger, or stress. But research has identified these as risk factors for violence in the home. This training will provide medical professionals with information on how to keep their families safe and seek help if they need it.

Three Steps to Keeping Your Own Family Safe

  • Step One: Understand the reality of violence in medical professionals’ homes

    These news articles depict true stories of violence in the homes of medical professional.

    NBC10 Philadelphia, July 2013: A doctor was shot and killed by her husband in her medical office. The husband then shot and killed himself.

    NY Daily News, November 2013: A doctor is believed to have killed his ex-wife, a school nurse who was found decapitated and shot in a field. The doctor then overdosed on prescription drugs and died.

    WRAL, August 2011: A former University doctor was charged in the stabbing deaths of his longtime partner and their son. The doctor’s partner was found in their home, and he had been stabbed over 100 times. The toddler was found dead in a bathtub.

    KTLA5, January 2013: A nurse is suspected in the death of his wife, who was found dead, abandoned in a car.

    ABC News, September 2013: A nurse was killed after being attacked by her husband. The victim was found with both hands severed and her neck severely wounded.

    NY Post, October 2012: A man allegedly stalked and killed his estranged wife, a nurse, along with the man she was dating.

    Commercial Appeal, December 2011: A nurse was convicted of second-degree murder after she shot and killed her husband.

    The Warren Reporter, August 2013: Police believe a nurse killed his wife, son, and himself.

  • Step Two: Understand the risk factors for domestic violence perpetration and victimization

    It is important that medical professionals seek help if they are at risk for committing domestic violence. Research shows that stress, alcohol abuse, depression, and anger are all risk factors for domestic violence. Research also shows that medical professionals deal with increased levels of stress, alcohol abuse, depression, and anger as a result of their jobs. These factors don’t cause violence and are not an excuse for violence, but do increase risk for violence and the resulting harm.

    Post-traumatic stress disorder:

    • Often results from exposure to death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence, and other terrifying events
    • Medical professionals have an increased risk of traumatic stress. Without treatment, traumatic stress can become chronic. A medical professional may also experience secondary traumatic stress because of the victims and events they encounter. There are certain causes and symptoms of traumatic stress and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is important for medical professional to be attentive of these causes and symptoms.
    • For symptoms of post-traumatic stress, view:
    • For a free self-assessment, Click Here


    • The high demands of the profession put intense emotional stress pressure on medical professionals. This can lead to depression and burnout. Burnout is also known as professional distress. It can lead to feelings of “emotional exhaustion, detachment, and a low sense of accomplishment.”
    • The main symptoms of depression for medical professionals are depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities for more than two weeks, along with:
      • Change in appetite or weight
      • Change in sleeping patterns
      • Speaking and/or moving with unusual speed or slowness
      • Decrease in sexual drive
      • Fatigue or loss of energy
      • Feelings of worthlessness, self-reproach, or guilt
      • Slowed thinking, or indecisiveness
      • Low sense of personal achievement
      • Loss of connection to and sense of meaning in one’s work
      • Pessimism and cynicism
      • Feeling emotionally exhausted by patient interactions
    • For a free self-assessment, Click Here

    Self Medication and Alcohol Abuse:

    • Alcohol abuse is one of the leading risk factors for intimate partner violence. A violent incident that happens when the person has been abusing alcohol may be more severe and the victim may suffer from worse injuries.
    • Alcohol abuse is at least as common among medical professionals as the general population.
    • It is very difficult for many medical professionals to admit that they are struggling with the stress of their jobs.
    • Some medical professionals find it much easier to cope with their stress and struggles through self-medication. This can include prescription drug abuse, substance abuse, and alcohol abuse.
    • For symptoms, view:
    • For a free self-assessment, Click Here

    Understanding these risk factors can help you get help before these behaviors escalate. There’s no excuse for hurting your family. But you can get help to prevent further trauma, depression, and substance abuse problems.

    If you are concerned about a spouse, partner, or family member who may be suffering from PTSD, depression, or substance abuse problems, please see the Resource Site for information for both you and your family member.

  • Step Three: Get help if you need it

    The following resources are available for those who feel unsafe:

    • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233
    • Local Shelters
    • Medical services (contact your local shelter for more information)
    • Counseling services (including long term and short term counseling)

    Benefits of Counseling:

    • Medical professionals can benefit from counseling and therapy. Because of the nature of their profession, they can often suffer from:
      • Emotional distress
      • Exhaustion
      • Job stress
      • Burnout
    • It is helpful if the counselor or therapist is familiar with the medical setting and the high demands of medically-based professions.
    • Marital/couples counseling is not recommended for couples who are already in violent or unhealthy relationships. However, marital/couples counseling can help strengthen communication and help families cope with traumatic stress, depression, and substance abuse issues together.

    Getting Help: Problems on the Job

    In homes that are non-violent, these types of programs can help families cope with stress and continue to develop healthy communication and coping skills.

    Employee Assistance Program

    • The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) “is a voluntary, work-based program that offers free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems.”
    • Helps workers deal with the pressures of the job
    • Provides services to the employee as well as their family members
    • Gives seminars and workshops on different topics
    • Improves employees health and productivity
    • Enhances the harmony and effectiveness of the workplace