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.
“She hadn’t slept. She was hungry. She hadn’t eaten.” Blume says those are just many of the signs in victims who come to the hospital for medical help. “She’d been beaten up by several other women that she lived with. …She delivered a baby in the hospital and…didn’t know her address and didn’t know what city she was in.”READ MORE: Denton Police Searching For Hit-And-Run Driver Who Struck Woman In Wheelchair
Tattoos, bruises, someone who is controlling them are among other clues Blume says healthcare workers should also question.
“How many have I missed in my 12-year career?” asks Beth Stewart who is also a nurse at Texas Health Resources.
Stewart says nurses are trained 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 added.
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 reached out. …I would hope Texas Health, I think we 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.
Twenty-seven identified as potential victims.
Sixteen of them as probable victims.
Five were confirmed.
And, two sought help.
“I mean there is so much to do…but that is 189 patients that had never been screened before. …we had screened zero,” said Blume.READ MORE: 66-Year-Old Runs Red Light In Arlington, Later Dies At The Hospital
According to the National Trafficking Hotline, Texas ranks number two in the nation for the highest number of human trafficking cases reported 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.
The I-Team reached out to North Texas hospitals to find out what training they provide:
Baylor Scott & White Health
We have protocols in place in our emergency departments and women’s services units so that our clinical care team members can assist in identifying victims of trafficking.
Parkland is currently reviewing evidence-based practice recommendations for screening for abuse and human trafficking. Our next step is to develop a plan and aspects of monitoring performance followed by an educational plan for the staff. The emergency department and trauma staff have already provided introductory education on this topic. In addition, the emergency department and trauma is developing an advocacy workgroup to assist other staff developing screening skills and communication with other disciplines necessary to assist this specific population. The expected timeline for implementation of this plan for the ED will occur in September of 2019.
Nurses at several of our hospitals have been instrumental in helping local law enforcement arrest perpetrators and bust up human trafficking rings.
Methodist Dallas Medical Center is also home to the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program. Here’s a link with more information about that program: