Background: Human trafficking is a public health crisis. Perpetrators of human trafficking gross billions of dollars annually from the sale of human cargo. Due to its pervasive and hidden nature, these crimes are happening at exponential rates, but go undetected. Lack of identification of these victims are seen across numerous disciplines such as law enforcement, social services, education, judicial services, and healthcare. One of these barriers in identification is lack of proper education. Within the healthcare disciplines, a majority of victims are seen by a healthcare professional during their trafficking, yet remain unidentified. With over 4 million nurses in the U.S., they are ideally situated to identify and treat these individuals, if properly educated.
Objective: This study examined RN nursing students' knowledge of and exposure to human trafficking content in pre-licensure undergraduate curricula.
Design/setting/participants: A cross-sectional quantitative study using the National Student Nurses' Association was conducted. Data were collected electronically via email recruitment of its members yielding a total sample population of n = 644, which included current and recently graduated RN undergraduate nursing students.
Methods: The researchers' developed tool, Student Nurse Human Trafficking Education Assessment Tool (Cronbach alpha coefficient of 0.828), was sent via email. Descriptive statistics, t-tests, one-way between groups ANOVA, correlation procedures, and multiple regressions were conducted using SPSS 27.
Results: Findings showed approximately all participants reported minimal to no human trafficking content taught in undergraduate nursing curricula. Over three-quarters of participants reported some to no human trafficking knowledge. <5 % of participants reported having full confidence in recognizing signs or clinical presentations of human trafficking in a client, as well as executing their role as a current/future healthcare professional in intervention and response to a victim. Multiple linear regressions showed significant predictors for outcome variables of confidence in recognizing signs or clinical presentations of human trafficking in a client, and in executing the role as a current/future healthcare professional in intervention and response to a victim as number of minutes taught on human trafficking, perceived human trafficking knowledge, and attending a school in a mandated state for continuing education on human trafficking for licensed healthcare professionals.
Conclusions and implications: Human trafficking content is taught at a minimal to zero amount in pre-licensure RN nursing curricula. Only eight states mandate continuing education on human trafficking for healthcare professionals. Once licensed, nurses who live in non-mandated states continue to be irregularly/inadequately educated on this topic. The data suggest that human trafficking content is not present in most pre-licensure RN nursing curricula. The implications of this study strongly suggest that human trafficking content be taught across all undergraduate RN programs with continuing education mandated in all U.S. states and U.S. territories.
Keywords: Anti-human trafficking training; Healthcare professional education; Human trafficking; Nursing students; Undergraduate nursing curricula.
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