BACKGROUND: Intimate partner violence (IPV) is an important health issue. Many medical students and residents have received training relating to IPV, but previous studies show that many students feel that their training has been inadequate. Our objective was to assess the knowledge, attitudes and perceptions about IPV among university medical students and surgical residents. METHODS: We administered an online survey to a sample of Ontario medical students and surgical residents. The survey instrument was a modified version of the Provider Survey. RESULTS: Two hundred medical students and surgical residents participated in the survey (response rate: 29%). Misperceptions about IPV among respondents included the following: 1) victims must get something from the abusive relationships (18.2%), 2) physicians should not interfere with a couple’s conflicts (21%), 3) asking about IPV risks offending patients (45%), 4) Victims choose to be victims (11.1%), 5) it usually takes ‘two to tango’ (18.3%), and 6) some patients’ personalities cause them to be abused (41.1%). The majority of respondents (75.0%) believed identifying IPV was very relevant to clinical practice. The majority of medical students (91.2%) and surgical residents (96.9%) estimated the IPV prevalence in their intended practice to be 10% or less. Most of the medical students (84%) and surgical residents (60%) felt that their level of training on IPV was inadequate and over three quarters of respondents (77.2%) expressed a desire to receive additional education and training on IPV. CONCLUSIONS: There are misconceptions among Canadian medical students and surgical residents about intimate partner violence. These misconceptions may stem from lack of education and personal discomfort with the issue or from other factors such as gender. Curricula in medical schools and surgical training programs should appropriately emphasize educational opportunities in the area of IPV.
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