Practice Improvement| Volume 43, ISSUE 6, P526-531, November 2017

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Implementation of Human Trafficking Education and Treatment Algorithm in the Emergency Department

Published:April 18, 2017DOI:



      Health care professionals have not been successful in recognizing or rescuing victims of human trafficking. The purpose of this project was to implement a screening system and treatment algorithm in the emergency department to improve the identification and rescue of victims of human trafficking. The lack of recognition by health care professionals is related to inadequate education and training tools and confusion with other forms of violence such as trauma and sexual assault.


      A multidisciplinary team was formed to assess the evidence related to human trafficking and make recommendations for practice. After receiving education, staff completed a survey about knowledge gained from the training. An algorithm for identification and treatment of sex trafficking victims was implemented and included a 2-pronged identification approach: (1) medical red flags created by a risk-assessment tool embedded in the electronic health record and (2) a silent notification process. Outcome measures were the number of victims who were identified either by the medical red flags or by silent notification and were offered and accepted intervention.


      Survey results indicated that 75% of participants reported that the education improved their competence level. The results demonstrated that an education and treatment algorithm may be an effective strategy to improve recognition. One patient was identified as an actual victim of human trafficking; the remaining patients reported other forms of abuse.

      Implications for Practice

      Education and a treatment algorithm were effective strategies to improve recognition and rescue of human trafficking victims and increase identification of other forms of abuse.

      Key words

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      Amber Egyud is Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President of Patient Care Services, Forbes Hospital, Allegheny Health Network, Monroeville, PA.


      Kimberly Stephens is Assistant Professor of Nursing, Waynesburg University, Waynesburg, PA.


      Brenda Swanson-Bierman is Assistant Professor, Physician Assistant Studies, Rangos School of Health Science, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA.


      Marge DiCuccio is Chief Nursing Officer, Vice President of Patient Care Services, Allegheny General Hospital, Allegheny Health Network, Pittsburgh, PA.


      Kimberly Whiteman is Assistant Professor of Nursing, Waynesburg University, Waynesburg, PA.