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Domestic abuse amongst female doctors: thematic analysis of qualitative interviews

Domestic abuse amongst female doctors: thematic analysis of qualitative interviews
Domestic abuse amongst female doctors: thematic analysis of qualitative interviews
Background Doctors can be victim-survivors of domestic abuse (DA), but how this impacts their work and wellbeing, and whether they face barriers to seeking help is not well understood.

Aim To understand single doctor mothers’ lived experience of DA, barriers to seeking help, and impact on their work.

Design and setting Individual qualitative interviews with female doctors in the UK who had left an abusive relationship. Interviews were conducted between August 2019 and March 2020.

Method Participants were invited via a closed online forum for female doctors who are single parents. In total, 114 females expressed interest. In-depth semi-structured telephone interviews were audiorecorded and transcribed. Transcripts were uploaded to NVivo and analysed using inductive thematic analysis.

Results A total of 21 participants were interviewed. The internalised stigma of DA affected participants’ sense of identity and belonging as a doctor, causing social and professional isolation. Many participants felt that the acute stress of DA had an impact on their work, yet often felt unable to take time off. Barriers to seeking help included lack of confidentiality, especially where the abusive partner was also a doctor (sometimes accusing the victim-survivor of mental illness or threatening to report them to the General Medical Council). Participants found peer support helpful, as well as consulting health professionals who were empathic towards them. After they had left the abusive relationship victim-survivors felt better equipped to support patients going through DA.

Conclusion Domestic abuse impacts on the work and wellbeing of female doctors, who face unique barriers to help seeking and reporting DA. An online peer support group can help to break the sense of isolation, but specialised confidential support services are also required to help doctors experiencing DA.
Abused woman, Domestic violence, Interpersonal violence, Peer support, Qualitative research, Spouse abuse, Women physicians
0960-1643
E193-E200
Donovan, Emily
b7b59e0a-40f0-43a3-aa52-e832f72db058
Santer, Miriam
3ce7e832-31eb-4d27-9876-3a1cd7f381dc
Daker-White, Gavin
9b0569ff-aba1-41d1-a1ca-3852ef7677a6
Morgan, Sara
8ad10b7e-2005-4e93-9948-164a69489350
Willcox, Merlin
dad5b622-9ac2-417d-9b2e-aad41b64ffea
Donovan, Emily
b7b59e0a-40f0-43a3-aa52-e832f72db058
Santer, Miriam
3ce7e832-31eb-4d27-9876-3a1cd7f381dc
Daker-White, Gavin
9b0569ff-aba1-41d1-a1ca-3852ef7677a6
Morgan, Sara
8ad10b7e-2005-4e93-9948-164a69489350
Willcox, Merlin
dad5b622-9ac2-417d-9b2e-aad41b64ffea

Donovan, Emily, Santer, Miriam, Daker-White, Gavin, Morgan, Sara and Willcox, Merlin (2021) Domestic abuse amongst female doctors: thematic analysis of qualitative interviews. BJGP, 71 (704), E193-E200. (doi:10.3399/BJGP.2020.0795).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Background Doctors can be victim-survivors of domestic abuse (DA), but how this impacts their work and wellbeing, and whether they face barriers to seeking help is not well understood.

Aim To understand single doctor mothers’ lived experience of DA, barriers to seeking help, and impact on their work.

Design and setting Individual qualitative interviews with female doctors in the UK who had left an abusive relationship. Interviews were conducted between August 2019 and March 2020.

Method Participants were invited via a closed online forum for female doctors who are single parents. In total, 114 females expressed interest. In-depth semi-structured telephone interviews were audiorecorded and transcribed. Transcripts were uploaded to NVivo and analysed using inductive thematic analysis.

Results A total of 21 participants were interviewed. The internalised stigma of DA affected participants’ sense of identity and belonging as a doctor, causing social and professional isolation. Many participants felt that the acute stress of DA had an impact on their work, yet often felt unable to take time off. Barriers to seeking help included lack of confidentiality, especially where the abusive partner was also a doctor (sometimes accusing the victim-survivor of mental illness or threatening to report them to the General Medical Council). Participants found peer support helpful, as well as consulting health professionals who were empathic towards them. After they had left the abusive relationship victim-survivors felt better equipped to support patients going through DA.

Conclusion Domestic abuse impacts on the work and wellbeing of female doctors, who face unique barriers to help seeking and reporting DA. An online peer support group can help to break the sense of isolation, but specialised confidential support services are also required to help doctors experiencing DA.

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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 3 November 2020
e-pub ahead of print date: 25 February 2021
Published date: 1 March 2021
Keywords: Abused woman, Domestic violence, Interpersonal violence, Peer support, Qualitative research, Spouse abuse, Women physicians

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 446790
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/446790
ISSN: 0960-1643
PURE UUID: 9c23d63f-5a36-4917-9535-2316a27ec568
ORCID for Miriam Santer: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-7264-5260
ORCID for Merlin Willcox: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-5227-3444

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 23 Feb 2021 17:30
Last modified: 08 Jan 2022 03:30

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Contributors

Author: Emily Donovan
Author: Miriam Santer ORCID iD
Author: Gavin Daker-White
Author: Sara Morgan
Author: Merlin Willcox ORCID iD

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