Difficult conversations: Navigating intimate partner violence with standardized patients

Published:November 19, 2020DOI:


      • Intimate Partner Violence is inadequately addressed in medical school curricula.
      • We implemented an intervention with didactic modules and standardized patients.
      • After the session, student preparedness and comfort addressing IPV increased.
      • This module is easily introduced to medical school curricula.



      One in three women in the US experience intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetime. There are minimal opportunities for medical students to learn about responding to IPV.


      Students participated in a learning intervention about recognizing and addressing IPV, followed by a standardized patient session. Students filled out a seven-question survey before and after the session, which assessed comfort addressing IPV, discussing resources, and practicing trauma-informed care. Responses were compared using the Mann-Whitney U test.


      Sixteen medical students participated, response rate of 100%. The median score for comfort recognizing signs of IPV increased from 2 to 3 (p < 0.01); for asking patients about IPV, from 1 to 3.5 (p < 0.01); in knowledge of IPV resources, from 1 to 3 (p < 0.01); in preparedness to practice trauma informed care, from 2 to 3.5 (ns). Comfort addressing IPV improved from 1 to 3 (p < 0.01).


      After the session, student preparedness and comfort addressing IPV increased. The learning intervention addressed information not in standard medical curricula. This module can be easily adapted to any medical school curricula.


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