Project Empower: Injury and Violence Prevention Program

NNEDLearn 2014 Participant: Virginia Commonwealth University, Injury and Violence Prevention Program

Description: Project Empower by the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) health system recognizes intimate partner violence (IPV) as a public health issue.

In 1997 the Forensic Nursing Team was established and has grown to include 10 members and 24/7 coverage in 2014. In 2011 the Injury and Violence Prevention Program (IVPP) created a crisis fund to help victims financially using grant funds. In 2013 IVPP hired a full time advocate to coordinate with the FNE team and provide clinical services to patients naming the program Project EMPOWER.

In 2014 the program was serving the emergency department, clinics and in-patient population, and had trained hundreds of health care providers on how to care for this population of patients. The team included over 15 community partners.

Population of focus: The program sees individuals of all ages, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. The majority of VCU patients receive Medicaid/Medicare or VCC, which is the state hospital based insurance. The program also serves individuals who are refugees, who have mental health diagnoses, who are experiencing homelessness, from the greater Richmond Virginia area. The patient population is also comprised of individuals from the university’s student body.

Setting: VCU is a teaching hospital.

Level of focus: Individual

Background: IPV Affects 1 in 4 women in the U.S. Sexual violence is a very serious public health problem that affects millions of women and men. In the United States, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men have been raped in their lifetime and nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men have experienced other forms of sexual violence at some point in their lives.

IPV and SA patients who enter the hospital and leave without the support of an advocate are less likely to seek help and services in the community.

Providers who are not educated are less likely to screen patients according to best practice standards.


  • The program has experienced a 30% increase the the number of patients referred hospital wide
  • Nearly 70% of patients have maintained follow up appointments
  • Low recidivism rates/use of the emergency room for additional injuries related to IPV


  • Project EMPOWER 2013 Catalyst Award Winners: An award from the VA Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, representing leaders in community collaboration to prevent and raise awareness about IPV and Sexual Assault.
  • 2012 Institute of Women’s Health Research Symposium Poster Session “Building Bridges in Women’s Health Research Award”
  • Poster “Forensic Nursing and Practice : Defining the Role, Creating the Future” presentations including 20th Annual IAFN Scientific Assembly Fajardo, Puerto Rico and the Virginia Chapter of International Forensic Nursing on 2/27/12
  • The Forensic Nurse Educator and IVPP team have been able to make the training a requirement in the Nurse Residency Program, unique to Magnet Hospitals, which fulfills their cultural learning component
  • The program has become a well known resource in the hospital whereby the advocate can be contacted by pager, consulted through our electronic charting system, and contacted by outside partners for case management collaboration