January 1, 2024

Nurse Practitioner Created Screening To Identify Human Trafficking Victims, As a Student

Nurse Practitioner Created Screening To Identify Human Trafficking Victims, As a Student

Updated 1/8/2024

At the moment, Michigan might be best known for the extreme cold temperatures, snow, and ice it is facing, but to Danielle Jordan Bastein, an ER nurse at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan is also known for something far more dangerous:

Human trafficking. 

But now, thanks to a new screening protocol that she implemented while a student at Wayne State University, Bastein is fighting back — and working to help trafficked individuals before it’s too late. 

Podcast Episode

>>Listen To The Vital Role Of Nurses in Combating Human Trafficking with Leah Helmbrecht, Forensic Nurse Examiner


What Does Human Trafficking Have to Do with Hospitals? 

In an article with Fox 2 News Detroit, Bastein explained that a large majority of trafficked individuals come into contact with health care workers at some point during their trafficking, but shockingly, very few of them are actually identified by healthcare staff. One study found that approximately half of all trafficked individuals (mostly women and female children) do see a healthcare worker at some point during their exploitation. In fact, healthcare workers are the most likely of any profession to come into initial contact with a trafficked girl or woman, so even the National Conference of State Legislatures has identified healthcare workers as a key first-line defense against trafficking. 

So, what are we missing here? 

Well, in Bastein’s eyes, we are missing out on crucial screening protocol and training that would ensure that emergency room triage nurses are able to routinely ask the right questions and do the right assessment that would flag a potential trafficking victim for further follow-up. Her screening tool looks for patterns of inconsistencies in the patient’s story, abuse, torture, or neglect signs, and other behaviors consistent with trafficking victims, such as if they aren’t holding their own ID or money, or if the person they are with is answering questions for them and refuses to leave or let them be alone. 

If the patient is identified as a victim and agrees to help, the hospital then works to provide the individual with housing, transportation and any necessities they may need. And if you’re thinking that all this is well and good in theory, but may not fly in “real life”, get ready for this stat: since implementing the screening, the hospital has successfully rescued 17 victims of trafficking in the past year alone, a number that shocked even Bastein herself. 

"It took me aback it actually worked and we kept it going," she told Fox 2 News.

Read: Nurse Commits Suicide Due To Reported Bullying At Work

Making a Difference in the Mitten State

What Bastein is doing is important for the nation, for the future of nursing, and for the state of Michigan. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline organization, Michigan has the 6th highest reported incidences of human trafficking in the entire country, with 176 reported cases in 2018 alone. The organization reports that sex trafficking among female adults and children make up the vast majority of Michigan’s trafficking, with cases high in the traveling and hotel/motel industries.

It’s thought that Michigan’s highway connectivity, as well as its proximity to bordering states and Canada, make it a prime location as a pass-through or origin source for trafficking. Additionally, major events, such as the Detroit Auto Show tend to attract large spikes in human trafficking incidents. For example, WXYZ Detroit reported on Jan 17th that the FBI rescued as many as 40 children who were trafficked during the show and that sex trafficking goes up between 280% and 300% during the auto show. 

How Nurses Can Get Involved Against Human Trafficking 

In a post about Bastein’s story shared by Johnson & Johnson on Facebook, several nurses in the comment section praised her efforts and noted that they wished more training on trafficking screening would be offered to current and upcoming nurses in the future. “This is so needed,” commented Laurie Crosgrove. “Hopefully other hospitals will use the protocol and even more woman can be saved from the horrendous life they are leading. As a nurse myself, I applaud your efforts. Great job Danielle!”

Supporting and sharing Bastein’s efforts are important and could be a conversation starter with your own facility about implementing a similar program, but there are other steps you can take if you’re a nurse who wants to do more to help human trafficking victims: 

  • Take a CE course on human trafficking. There are several CE classes dedicated to helping you learn more about how to identify and help victims of trafficking online, such as this one
  • Know the stats for your state. Many people think human trafficking isn’t a problem in their area—until they actually look at the statistics
  • Memorize and display the information for the National Human Trafficking Hotline for potential victims: (888) 373-7888 or text “help” to 233733. 

The more nurses who are aware of the problem of human trafficking and the vital role they can play in helping to stop and rescue victims, the more of an impact can be made. Bastein hopes that her efforts will spread to other areas across the country to save even more victims of the modern-day form of slavery. 

"It feels pretty amazing that at least I had a small part in getting this person help,” she noted. 

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