Preparing residents to deal with human trafficking

Clin Teach. 2020 Dec;17(6):674-679. doi: 10.1111/tct.13187. Epub 2020 Jul 27.


Background: Victims of human trafficking (HT) are predisposed to numerous health concerns. Many encounter health care practitioners during captivity, but awareness and knowledge among front-line physicians is low. Limited data exist on attempts to address this within residency training programmes. Formal curriculum time in residency is limited and online modules may be a useful educational option.

Methods: Residents in family medicine, emergency medicine and general paediatrics at the University of Alberta were invited to participate. They completed short surveys to assess knowledge both before and after completing an online learning module either individually (n = 15) or in a facilitated session (n = 17). Baseline and post-intervention changes in self-reported and tested knowledge were assessed.

Results: Thirty-two residents completed the pre-intervention survey: only 6% self-identified as somewhat knowledgeable on HT and 16% knew the red flags used to identify victims. Eighty-one percent wanted this topic incorporated into residency training, but only 6% and 25% had received education previously in residency or medical school, respectively. Thirteen percent were comfortable supporting victims, and 6% reported knowing how to provide support. Twenty residents completed the post-intervention survey, with improvements in both self-reported (p < 0.001) and tested (p = 0.005) knowledge of HT. Residents also reported being more prepared to identify victims (p < 0.001), more comfortable supporting victims (p < 0.001) and more confident in knowing how to support victims (p < 0.001).

Discussion: Baseline HT knowledge in residents providing first-contact care appears limited. Residency programmes should consider providing more HT education in order to improve competency in care. Although an online module was shown to be effective, protected time might be necessary for the widespread adoption of online education delivery.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Clinical Competence
  • Curriculum
  • Emergency Medicine* / education
  • Family Practice
  • Human Trafficking*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*