Individuals applying for nursing licenses or seeking license renewals in Pennsylvania now are required to take mandatory training in child abuse recognition and reporting under new state laws.
As of Jan. 1, individuals applying for an initial RN license must complete at least three hours of Pennsylvania Department of Human Services-approved continuing education in child abuse recognition and reporting as a condition of licensure. RNs seeking license renewal must complete a minimum of two hours of DHS-approved CE child abuse training.
The mandatory education, part of an overhauled state child abuse law in the wake of the scandal involving former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, might benefit abuse victims, nurses say.
Our hopes are that the newly restructured child abuse reporting regulations and required education will increase the awareness and importance of identifying potential areas of risk for our youth, said Jennifer Molnar, MSN, CRNP-AC, PNP-BC, SANE-P, nurse practitioner in the ED at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. We hope that with increased education and awareness due to this regulation change, along with the new reporting system, that the potential victimization of the pediatric age group will be identified sooner.
Underreporting of abuse
When underreporting occurs, abuse statistics appear lower than they actually are, Molnar said, so its important to get an accurate picture of the scope of the problem in order to improve prevention measures and enhance patient care. CHOP has a sexual assault response team, a multidisciplinary team aimed at providing the best care possible to pediatric sexual assault victims.
The new regulations expand the states definition of child abuse, specify who is a mandatory reporter and an alleged perpetrator of child abuse, and increase penalties for failing to make a mandatory report, among other changes.
The mandatory education requirement has created some angst because the information came out in late fall and there wasnt a great deal of information about how to do it, nursing leaders say.
Initially, there was concern about how we would make sure everyone meets the continuing education requirements, said Paula Agosto, MHA, RN, CCRN, senior vice president and CNO, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. People were saying, How are we going to do this? Are we going to create these programs?
CE programs have been or are being created by different organizations specifically to address those needs. Those programs must receive approval from the state.
Increasing the number of professionals as mandated reporters of suspected child abuse decreases the likelihood of young victims falling through the cracks, Agosto said. As mandated reporters, teachers, firefighters, child care providers and licensed healthcare professionals now are required by state law to report if there is a reasonable cause for concern that a child is being harmed by calling a statewide toll-free ChildLine at 800-932-0313 or through an online reporting tool. Mandatory reporters failing to report incidents of child abuse could face criminal penalties.
If you heard something or see something or you think something, you have to report it, and I think that does nothing but stand to benefit the child and the family and anyone else involved who is in the situation, Agosto said.
Mandatory education about child abuse advances the profession, said Kathleen M. McCauley PhD, RN, FAAN, FAHA, associate dean for academic programs at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in Philadelphia.
I do think if you dont work in a pediatric world you may not know a lot about the topic, she said. The Pennsylvania Board of Nursing was fabulous when they decided to implement the mandatory CE requirement for licensure. They were very thoughtful in the way that they defined what a CE was. It isnt just traditional things where you pay several hundred dollars and go to a conference and at the end you get a certificate and only those things count. Its a much more liberal definition of what counts, and that makes it much more doable for nurses to tailor their ongoing education to fit what they really need.
Robin Farmer is a freelance writer.