Katharine McDonald is from Arlington Heights, IL and studied biology and global health at Northwestern University. She served as the Patient Liaison in the Emergency Department at Bon Secours Hospital in Baltimore through the Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry. Her day-to-day functions included providing hospitality and support to patients and families in the ED, assisting with personal needs, comfort care, and communication with the nursing staff.
My biggest project as an AmeriCorps Member was to bring a domestic violence program to our health system. Working with one of our ER nurses, I found the Lethality Assessment Program to help us effectively screen for domestic violence and form a relationship with a local domestic violence resource center. As a result, we were able to provide concrete help to any victims we identified.
The program is designed to assess the danger a domestic violence victim faces, specifically her/his likelihood of being killed, and it aims to reduce the number of deaths attributed to domestic violence. It has produced excellent results in other healthcare and non-healthcare settings in Maryland, and we became the first hospital in Baltimore City to implement the program. I spearheaded the efforts to construct a standard operating procedure, write and revise hospital policies, create the screening and assessment forms, select informational materials to use when educating our patients about domestic violence, get all this approved, and schedule trainings for the staff involved across many health system sites. I am handing program coordination over to the ER nurse with whom I’ve been collaborating this year, and the program is expected to be in full swing in the next three months. We are excited that our health system will have a good screening tool and a clear and effective way to respond to victims of domestic violence by calling on a knowledgeable, responsive resource and following a defined protocol. We hope that this program will fill a previously unmet need for our patients and help to combat domestic violence in our community.