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#2 Prepare Your Practice

Six steps to prepare your practice

There are six steps to prepare your practice:

  • Build buy-in for your DV/SA program
  • Support staff in addressing their own experiences of violence
  • Create or update policies or protocols on IPV/HT
  • Measure quality improvement
  • Enhance the clinic environment by displaying patient and provider tools
  • Document and code

At the beginning of our IPV work we first offered information and resources for employees on vicarious trauma, including developing a support group just for staff, and because of that we were able to build staff resiliency before addressing IPV with patients.

— Sara Gavin, LMFT, LPCC, Director of Behavioral Health, CommuniCare Health Centers (Woodland, CA)


PowerPoint for CEOs and board members to build buy-in for why health centers should create a response to DV/SA.


Sample workflow that outlines each staff member’s role—from the front office to the exam room—in responding to DV/SA.


Sample blog posts for October Domestic Violence Awareness Month and April Sexual Assault Awareness Month.


Support staff in addressing their own experiences of violence

Creating a trauma informed health setting is a critical first step in building a response to IPV. Trauma informed workplaces recognize the needs of both clients and employees.  Taking into account the high prevalence rates of IPV, it is likely that some health center employees are also personally affected by IPV and others will experience vicarious trauma.

Create or update policies and protocols on DV/SA and HT

It is critical to establish or update your protocol on DV/SA and HT by identifying roles and responsibilities for staff, establishing a seeing patients alone policy, and implementing uniform standards for documentation and reporting. Examples of adaptable protocols from health centers from across the U.S. are featured below.

  • Sample health center protocol on IPV/HT/exploitation
    Click to download
  • Toolkit for developing a clinical protocol for human trafficking
    Click to order

Quality Improvement

Work with your quality improvement staff or committee to establish a baseline assessment of the quality of care currently provided to survivors of IPV and HT.  Identify appropriate tools to measure progress such as the following Quality Assessment/Quality Intervention (QA/QI) tool.  Complete the tool at initial IPV and HT program implementation, at the 6 month mark, and again as needed to measure change, address barriers, and evaluate sustainability. The QA/QI tool can also help inform the development of your protocol.


Enhance the clinic environment by displaying patient and provider tools

Research shows that creating a supportive environment helps survivors feel more comfortable talking about violence.1 Hang posters in lobbies and exam rooms with IPV/HT prevention and health messages; stock safety cards in exam rooms and bathrooms; and consider other culturally appropriate patient and provider tools.


Documentation and Coding

Be sure to train providers and the billing team on how to document and code for DV/SA as well as how to implement important privacy protections for what information gets shared about IPV. Current Procedural Technology (CPT) and International Classification of Diseases (ICD) codes are available for age appropriate counseling and risk factor reduction interventions as well as codes to record assessment and counseling for IPV.


  1. Chang JC, Decker MR, Moracco KE, Martin SL, Peterson R, Frasier PY. (2005). Asking about intimate partner violence: advice from female survivors to health care providers. Patient Education and Counseling, 59:141-147
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