Nurses' Diagnostic Work on Possible Physical Child Abuse

Authors

  • Anita W. O'Toole R.N., C.S., Ph.D., FAAN,

    Corresponding author
    1. Anita W. O'Toole, Professor Emeritus, is with the School of Nursing, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio.
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  • Richard O'Toole Ph.D.,

    1. Richard O'Toole, Professor Emeritus, Stephen W. Webster, Associate Professor, and Betsy Lucal, Teaching Fellow, are with the Department of Sociology, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio.
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  • Stephen W. Webster Ph.D.,

    1. Richard O'Toole, Professor Emeritus, Stephen W. Webster, Associate Professor, and Betsy Lucal, Teaching Fellow, are with the Department of Sociology, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio.
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  • Betsy Lucal Ph.D.

    1. Richard O'Toole, Professor Emeritus, Stephen W. Webster, Associate Professor, and Betsy Lucal, Teaching Fellow, are with the Department of Sociology, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio.
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Address correspondence to Anita W. O'Toole, R.N., C.S., Ph.D., FAAN, 1354 Mockingbird Dr., Kent, OH 44240.

Abstract

Abstract The concept of diagnostic work (A. Strauss, S. Fager-haugh, B. Suczek, & C. Wiener, 1985) is used to explore nurses' responses to potential child abuse. A total of 1,036 nurses (response rate of 67%) completed a mailed questionnaire that included open-ended qualitative-type questions about a hypothetical situation involving possible child abuse. We report their judgments regarding information presented in the hypothetical situation and additional information they requested to make the diagnosis. Nurses focused primarily on the child's injuries and behavior and wanted more information about the abuse event. Diagnostic work was then analyzed by specialty group: community health, school health, emergency, and pediatric nursing. Nurses' specialization influenced the choice of information that was determined to be decisive and the additional information desired to make a diagnosis.

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