Can a blanket question about personal safety be effective in identifying cases of human trafficking or domestic violence?
Renea Wilson, MSN, RN, CEN, director of the emergency department (ED) at Stormont Vail Hospital in Topeka, Kan., didn’t think so. She believed her hospital was treating patients who were being trafficked and felt her department could do more to intervene.
Wilson’s instincts proved correct. Polaris, a Washington, D.C.- area nonprofit dedicated to the global eradication of human slavery, has identified Topeka as a hotspot for human trafficking.
The U.S. Department of Defense reports that human trafficking — transporting people across state or international lines, typically for forced labor or sexual exploitation — is one of the world’s fastest growing crimes, and the health care community is moving to respond. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in June released new diagnostic codesfor designating suspected and confirmed cases of trafficking, and the American Hospital Association has made human trafficking one of the four pillars of its Hospitals Against Violence campaign.
Aware of this kind of nationwide attention, and motivated by the needs of her community, Wilson spearheaded an effort in 2015 to do a better job of identifying and responding to victims of human trafficking and of domestic violence as well. Elements of the initiative included staff education, coalition building, and development of a personal safety screening tool.
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