Diagnosing Human Trafficking When A Patient Is A Victim

Member only content: This article appears in the August issue of Patient Safety Monitor.

Only 13% of trafficking victims are recognized as such by their providers
Physicians, nurses, and healthcare staff are in a unique position to help the human trafficking victims who walk through their doors. But for that to work, providers first need to know how to identify them.
There’s an estimated 1 million human trafficking victims living in America—a population roughly the size of Delaware. And statistics from the National Human Trafficking Hotline and the Polaris BeFree Textline show that reported cases of human trafficking increased 35% in 2016.
But the statistic most relevant to healthcare providers is this one: 87% of trafficking victims visit a provider at least once during their captivity and aren’t recognized as victims. These patients tend to live short, harsh lives, and less than 1% of them are rescued each year.
To change those numbers, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) is launching a new national initiative on human trafficking and healthcare. The initiative will include tools for human trafficking awareness and prevention in healthcare, as well as the formation of the Alliance for Care Coordination of Children in Human Trafficking.
NAPNAP will be reaching out to stakeholders in the coming months to work with the Alliance on ensuring continuity of best practices in identification, treatment, and referral protocols. They’re seeking to unite professionals from healthcare, mental health, social service, law enforcement, and legal industries to coordinate public education, best practices, and resources. One of NAPNAP’s resources, online continuing education modules for all pediatric healthcare providers, will go live in August on PedsCESM.
Jessica Peck, DNP, RN, MSN, CPNP-PC, CNE, CNL, an associate professor of nursing at Texas A&M University College of Nursing in Corpus Christi and a former NAPNAP board member, says the problem of human trafficking is widespread.
“Trafficking occurs in every community, in every clinical setting,” she says. “All healthcare providers should be aware of signs of potential human trafficking.”


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