The Use of Standardized Patients to Increase Medical Student Awareness of and Confidence in Screening for Human Trafficking

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Local Mentor:Laurie Erickson, MDAPGO Advisor:Jody Steinauer, MD, MASPROBLEM:Human trafficking is a growing problem, but is often unrecognized. Victims are frequently kept in isolation with little freedom and autonomy, limiting their access to resources and recovery. Skilled health care providers can be the first to intervene on the victim’s behalf. A healthcare provider’s knowledge of the signs/symptoms of trafficking, the use of skillful communication techniques, and a familiarity of the patient's rights and resources are vital.INTERVENTION:Medical students are assigned a web-based independent learning module about human trafficking, its signs and symptoms, intervention strategies, and resources. Each student then participates in a simulation with a standardized patient (SP) who is a victim of trafficking, a detail the student must uncover with history taking. They then complete reflective writing, receive individual feedback from the SP, and participate in a group faculty/peer debrief session.CONTEXT:The intervention occurs at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix during the required OBGYN clerkship, with the standardized patient and follow-up experiences occurring during the final week of the six-week clerkship.OUTCOME/LESSONS LEARNED:Comparing pre-and post-intervention surveys of medical students identified a significant rise in confidence both in their ability to identify and also support victims of sex trafficking. In reflective essays, students most often feel sad, disappointed, or helpless during the SP encounter, but they remain committed develop rapport, provide resources, and empower their patient. These findings suggest that this is an effective educational intervention to teach medical students about sex trafficking.

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