BACKGROUND : Millennium Developmental Goal 3 (MDG 3) aims at enhancing gender equity
and empowerment of women. Emergency nurses who often encounter women injured by
their intimate partners are at risk of developing vicarious traumatisation, which may influence
their ability to empower women to move beyond the oppression of intimate partner violence.
AIM : This article aims to, (1) describe emergency nurses’ ways of coping with the exposure to
survivors of intimate partner violence, and (2) recommend a way towards effective coping that
will enhance emergency nurses’ abilities to empower women to move beyond the oppression
of intimate partner violence to contribute to the achievement of MDG 3.
SETTING : The study was conducted in emergency units of two public hospitals in an urban
setting in South Africa.
METHOD : A qualitative design and descriptive phenomenological method was used. Emergency
nurses working in the setting were purposively sampled and interviewed. The data were
analysed by searching for the essence and meaning attached to the exposure of emergency
nurses to survivors of intimate partner violence.
RESULTS : Emergency nurses’ coping responses were either aimed at avoiding or dealing with
their exposure to survivors of intimate partner violence. Coping aimed at dealing with the
exposure included seeking support, emotion regulation and accommodative coping.
CONCLUSION : Emergency nurses employ either effective or ineffective ways of coping. Less
effective ways of coping may increase their risk of vicarious and secondary traumatisation,
which in turn may influence their ability to empower women to move beyond the oppression
of intimate partner violence.