National Symposium on the Health Needs of Human Trafficking Victims: Post-Symposium Brief. Training Physical and Mental Health Professionals


One of the major outcomes of the symposium was the recognition that training the medical field on the issue of human trafficking is imperative to improve identification of, and service delivery to, victims. Health care and social service providers also acknowledged that simply training first-responder medical personnel, such as emergency room physicians or emergency medical technicians, is not sufficient; all medical professionals, including those working in other public systems such as the justice system, need proper training. Participants also agreed that special efforts should be made to ensure medical professionals serving marginalized populations, such as nurses and physician assistants working with needle exchange programs, also receive training about human trafficking. Training would assist with identifying and treating victims and enhance prevention so health professionals could identify clientele at risk for trafficking.

Training Tools

An improved training strategy would integrate the issue of human trafficking into the general and continued education of medical professionals. A number of medical professionals suggested that various medical associations, such as the American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and American Academy of Pediatrics, should focus their attention and resources on the issue of human trafficking. Social service providers and medical professionals suggested incorporating human trafficking into continuing education courses with a focus on quality of care, safety issues, and potential malpractice. Others suggested incorporating the topic of human trafficking into the larger issue of patient experience with violence and abuse.

Social service agencies have had some success in working with associations. However, they understand medical associations took significant time to recognize domestic violence as an issue, and are committed to continuing work with associations to gain attention for human trafficking.

Social service providers and medical professionals also discussed adding human trafficking to the standard educational curricula of doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, and other health professionals. They suggested creating a comprehensive human trafficking curriculum that could be adapted and used by a variety of institutions and audiences. The curriculum could be augmented by more specialized, targeted curricula, for example curricula specifically for emergency room nurses. Attendees identified a variety of existing training tools for the medical field, but believed developing a standard human trafficking curriculum would be valuable.

Attendees discussed who would be best equipped to provide training on human trafficking to the medical field. Medical professionals and social service providers agreed the training should be conducted by a peer (e.g., a nurse would train other nurses). However, they also acknowledged that the demand for training of medical professionals is much greater than the number of qualified medical professional trainers. Social service agencies offered examples of how they have successfully trained medical professionals. They noted that social service providers can sometimes present a more comprehensive perspective on the array of issues trafficking victims face. Social service providers also suggested having victims participate in training, enabling health care professionals to learn first-hand about their experiences.

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