Managing disclosures

There are times on placement when you will be challenged. For example, you may encounter patients who have experienced physical, emotional and/or mental abuse. They are likely to be very distressed and this may put significant stress on you. It’s important to know what to do in these situations and to be very clear about the local protocols for managing disclosure.

If a person discloses an abusive experience, you should explain to the person that you need to advise your supervisor and that the issue will be treated in strict confidence. Your supervisor has the advanced skills and professional contacts necessary to deal with these situations.

Under national guidelines, some situations need to be reported and your supervisor will manage this. Mandatory reporting requirements in most states and territories mean that instances of abuse need to be reported to the appropriate bodies if young people are involved. This can include the State or Territory Child Protection Agency and the police but varies between localities. Read up on the local guidelines before commencing your placement.

It is crucial to ask your supervisor for advice as soon as possible and let them deal with the situation. However, if you’re in a situation where you are the only person available, do not ask leading questions, but let the person you are consulting with tell the story in their own words, as this can influence further investigation. Document the conversation in the patient notes using an ‘I said’, ‘he/she said’ format, if possible, trying to use their exact words. This should be countersigned by your supervisor.

Remember to:

  • make sure you talk with your supervisor when you first start your placement
  • be fully aware of the process of reporting disclosure before you begin your placement
  • ask your supervisor direct questions about what to do if cases are presented to you regarding issues such as sexual abuse, physical or mental abuse
  • make sure that you debrief with skilled people and use the support services that are listed in this guide. They are there to help you. Your supervisor and university should also provide support for you.

Last updated: December 24, 2021