DETROIT – Doctors and nurses at Henry Ford Health System are making a difference in the lives of adults and children who are trapped in the world of human trafficking, thanks to a Henry Ford Hospital emergency room nurse who created protocol to help medical staff identify victims. Danielle Bastien, R.N., DNP, FNP-BC took on the issue of human trafficking for a doctoral project, which grew into formal training and hospital policy for all emergency room doctors and nurses across Henry Ford Health System.
Human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat, force or forms of coercion, for the purposes of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery, servitude, or even the removal of organs, according to the United Nations
. Michigan has the sixth highest number of reported human trafficking cases among all states, according to data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline
“Almost 90 percent of all trafficked victims have some type of direct contact with healthcare providers, and about 67 percent have an encounter at an emergency department,” Bastien said. “However, fewer than one percent are actually identified in a healthcare setting. There are no national guidelines for health care providers, and I think that needs to change.”
Bastien’s project began with developing guidelines and assessment tools for nurses. The screenings, a set of subjective red flags, can give the triage nurse – often the first person to treat the patient – reason to suspect the patient is a victim. The nurse looks for outward signs, including suspicious bruises, injuries or signs of abuse, as well as less obvious signs, such as unwarranted anxiety, fear or submissive behavior with an accompanying person. If the initial assessment sends up red flags, the patient’s primary nurse will continue the assessment with specific questions.
If a patient is found to be a victim of human trafficking and agrees to receive help, the patient is connected with a Henry Ford social worker, who will further assess the victim and report to the appropriate external agencies, such as the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which will make necessary arrangements to fit the patient’s needs including clothing, safe housing or shelter, transportation and contacting appropriate local authorities, such as the police. While adults may choose to accept or decline help, it is mandatory under state law to report child victims of human trafficking to the appropriate authorities.
“Being a victim of human trafficking is not a crime,” Bastien said. “Human trafficking victims should not be afraid to come to us. To date, we have helped 17 victims, including four minors, receive the help they needed to escape the world of human trafficking.”
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