top of page

Addressing Human Trafficking during a Pandemic

Updated: Jul 23, 2020

Covid19 has brought about many challenges for healthcare professionals. People are even more hesitant to go to a hospital for healthcare in fear of coming in contact with patients who have the coronavirus, or they may keep their visit short. Healthcare providers have changed the way they assess patients in the healthcare setting. This includes things such as doing virtual visits, or phone visits and limiting the amount of time with direct patient contact.

Although this is helping to curb and contain the virus many patients who are often the most vulnerable and seek care may be in danger and healthcare professionals are not picking up on the red flags, they normally would pre-pandemic.

Of most concern are those who are victims of abuse. One specific patient populations are those who are victims of human trafficking. Human trafficking is often a hidden pandemic impacting many people. With social isolation, traffickers may now employ more tactics making it difficult for healthcare professionals to pick up on serious signs.

For example, wearing a mask, that can be an easy cover to silence someone who may have mouthed certain help words or even whispered them but unable to so with a mask on. In addition, a mask may also cover a bruise or injuries that may have had a healthcare professional ask additional questions or raised a red flag, but during the pandemic, many patients may be assessed with a mask kept on.

On our faculty member, Meredith Scannell had an article published in a recent article in Nursing2020, Scannell described a simulation course and the impact it had on detecting cases of human trafficking. In this case, the victim of human trafficking displayed warning signs and it was the discovery of the primary nurse that picked up on alarming signs and did some further investigation and found that the patient was a victim of human trafficking. This then allowed the patient to openly disclose her situation as well as get her the help she needed.  

Article Information

For full article click this link

Scannell, Meredith PhD, CNM, MPH, MSN, CEN, SANE-A; Conso, Jonathan BSN, RN Using sexual assault training to improve human trafficking education, Nursing: May 2020 - Volume 50 - Issue 5 - p 15-17 doi: 10.1097/01.NURSE.0000657028.81053.2f

Signs of human trafficking

  • A discrepancy in age and behavior

  • Unexplained bruises or cuts or other signs of physical abuse.

  • The person is never is alone and/or always has someone translating or answering

  • Presents with secrecy or unable to answer questions about where they live.

  • Is afraid of law enforcement or receiving help from an outside entity.

  • Has someone answering questions for them

  • Avoids eye contact appears nervous, anxious or scared

  • Appears neglected or malnourished

  • Unattended health conditions

  • Reproductive health concerns frequent STIs and miscarriages

  • Poor mental health or mental health crisis, such as suicide ideation, depression

  • Confused or inconsistent stories

  • Unaware of current time/date

  • Branding sign or tattoo


If you know anyone experiencing human trafficking or have concerns about human trafficking some of these resources can help you today.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline is a 24/7, confidential, multilingual hotline for victims, survivors, and individuals with human trafficking concerns.

Call 1-888-373-7888

To learn more about the work of our faculty and services visit us at

145 views0 comments
bottom of page