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Human Trafficking

How Nurses Can Make a Difference

Scannell, Meredith RN, CNM, MSN, MPH, SANE1,2; MacDonald, Andrea E. RN, BSN, SANE-A3,4; Berger, Amanda RN, BSN, MSN, SANE-A4; Boyer, Nichole RN, BSN4

doi: 10.1097/JFN.0000000000000203
Case Reports

ABSTRACT 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.

Author Affiliations:1Institute of Health Professions;

2Northeastern University, Massachusetts General Hospital;

3Boston College; and

4Forensic Liaison Emergency Department, Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Correspondence: Meredith Scannell, RN, CNM, MSN, MPH, SANE, MGH Institute of Health Professions, Charlestown Navy Yard, 36, 1st Avenue, Boston, MA 02129. E-mail:

Received October 4, 2017; accepted for publication March 19, 2018.

© 2018 by the International Association of Forensic Nurses. All rights reserved.
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