Empowering Healthcare Providers to Identify Victims of Human Trafficking

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

This guest blog post comes from Polaris, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting and preventing human trafficking.

If a person comes into the ER for a drug overdose, the doctor refers that patient to rehab services. If a person comes in after attempting suicide, the doctor refers them to psychiatric care.

We expect our medical staff to identify the underlying causes of our ailments, give us the information we need to make informed decisions about our health, and help us access the treatment and services we need. And we expect healthcare settings to be a safe place to discuss our needs. 

But what happens if the problem isn’t obvious? What if the patient is a victim of human trafficking who experienced physical assault, an occupational injury, or sexual assault, but their trafficker told them that if they said anything to anyone their family would be hurt? If medical professionals don’t know what to look for, that patient could walk right out the door and back into their trafficking situation.

A Unique Position for Recognizing Trafficking

Healthcare providers have a crucial role in victim identification and support because they are in a unique position to recognize problems that may not be obvious at first glance. For some victims of trafficking, the interaction with a healthcare worker may be the only private setting they have to ask for help. 

Studies have found that anywhere between 50% and 88% of trafficking victims had access to one or more healthcare professionals during their trafficking situation. These figures point to a clear need for healthcare workers to understand the issue of human trafficking, know how to identify signs of sex and labor trafficking, and develop protocols and policies to support trafficking victims.

Training to Aid Identification of Victims

There are several US federal laws that establish human trafficking and related offenses as federal crimes, and attaches severe penalties to them. Now several states are requiring human trafficking training for healthcare staff to help identify victims. To help identify victims and provide interventions, HealthStream has collaborated with Polaris to offer a free 30-minute course to current HealthStream Learning Center and Connect customers: Recognizing and Responding to Human Trafficking in a Healthcare Context. This training was created by the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which is operated by Polaris. For more information, contact customer.service@healthstream.com.

There are over 12 million people employed in healthcare occupations – that’s 9% of the national workforce! Imagine the possibilities if these professionals received training on human trafficking. From the emergency responder, to the triage nurse, to the social worker, every member of a healthcare facility has opportunities to identify and assist victims of trafficking. Regardless of whether your facility is currently mandated to complete training, you can make a tremendous difference in the life of a victim by becoming educated about human trafficking. Your knowledge could help make the difference between freedom and slavery for the next victim that passes through your door.

About Polaris

Polaris is a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery. Named after the North Star that guided slaves to freedom in the U.S., Polaris systemically disrupts the human trafficking networks that rob human beings of their lives and their freedom. Our comprehensive model puts victims at the center of what we do – helping survivors restore their freedom, preventing more victims, and leveraging data and technology to pursue traffickers wherever they operate.