Human Trafficking: How Nurses Can Make a Difference

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Human trafficking is a human rights violation and a global health problem. Victims of human trafficking have medical and mental health sequelae requiring specific healthcare interventions. Healthcare professionals may be the initial contact that these victims make outside the world of trafficking. Healthcare professionals are key agents in the identification of human trafficking, which is essential in eliminating this public health problem. Unfortunately, healthcare professionals are not always able to detect signs of human trafficking. Failure to detect results in missed opportunities to assist victims. This is a case report of a victim of human trafficking who presented to an emergency department with medical and mental health issues. Despite numerous encounters with different healthcare professionals, signs and symptoms of human trafficking were not identified. Skilled assessment made by a forensic nurse alerted the healthcare team to clear features of human trafficking associated with this person. Through this case report we illustrate the key role the nurse played in identifying signs of human trafficking. Improvement of human trafficking educational programs is highlighted as a key adjunct to improving detection and facilitating the proper treatment of victims.

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