Identifying Human Trafficking Victims In The Emergency Rooms

Trafficking victims; In this study the Trump Administration is pursuing its war on human trafficking as the United States Department of Transportation takes aim at truckers, but a North Texas nurse says the battle begins somewhere besides the road. Susan Blume is a nurse at Texas Health Resources. She has spent years trying to develop a protocol to help healthcare providers recognize human trafficking victims in the emergency room.

Human trafficking victims

“They hadn’t slept. She was hungry. They hadn’t eaten.” Blume says those are just many of the signs in victims who come to the hospital for medical help. “They’d been beaten up by several other women that she live with. They deliver a baby in the hospital and didn’t know her address and didn’t know what city she was in.” Tattoos, bruises, someone who is controlling them are among other clues Blume says healthcare workers should also question.

“How many have they missed in my 12-year career?” asks Beth Stewart who is also a nurse at Texas Health Resources. Stewart says nurses are train to recognize strokes, domestic violence, chest pain the list of medical conditions goes on and on.  “but you know we had not been given the tools to ask people about trafficking,” she add. But that recently all changed. Blume trained Stewart and other nurses at Texas Health Resources to identify human trafficking victims in the emergency room.

And, now, she is on a mission to arm all emergency room nurses with those same screening tools. “Other Texas health facilities have reached out to me. Alliance has reached out to me. Downtown social workers have reach out. They would hope Texas Health, they think they are already a leader in this.” From June 2018 through May 2019, Texas Health Resources says it screened 189-patients at high risk for human trafficking.

Human trafficking cases

Twenty-seven identified as potential victims. Sixteen of them as probable victims. Five were confirm. And, two sought help. “They mean there is so much to do but that is 189 patients that had never screened before. They had screened zero,” said Blume. According to the National Trafficking Hotline, Texas ranks number two in the nation for the highest number of human trafficking cases report by states.

Following the President’s Initiative to end human trafficking, the Department of Transportation just announced a lifetime ban on commercial drivers convicted of the crime. In an I-Team investigation last year, sex trafficking survivors told us on one particular Friday night they found 421-girls for sale in Dallas. Most of them had lollipop emojis next to their names- meaning they were children.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has identified healthcare workers as the key first-line defense against trafficking. “Ninety-five percent of all emergency staff have not received any sort of training on human trafficking,” says Blume. This is why Blume is now hoping more hospitals will mandate human trafficking training for all healthcare workers.