Health Care Public Health

AdventHealth Parker Nurse Recognized for Work to Support Human Trafficking Victims

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According to the Department of Justice, the U.S. has seen a nearly 50% increase in human trafficking cases since 2011. Research shows more than 60% of human trafficking victims will visit an emergency department while they are being exploited. When AdventHealth Parker emergency department nurse Mary “MK” Marnell heard that statistic, she knew she had to do something about it. So last fall, she helped design a process to recognize patients who may be victims. She was recently recognized as a 2024 Nightingale Award nominee for her work.

To design the program, MK started by reaching out to Homeland Security to learn more about what team members can do to support victims.

“If someone does tell us they need a safe place to stay, we are able to separate them from whomever they’re with, provide them with resources, and submit a tip to law enforcement,” said MK.

Some of those resources include Colorado’s Human Trafficking Hotline, Colorado Crisis Services, and the Victim Connect Resource Center. MK created a handout full of phone numbers and information for victims, which are readily available in the ED.

“If someone has a question, we’ve been able to put all of the resources in one place. And we have resources not only for victims, but for staff as well who may want to do more training or learn more about human trafficking.”

Many human trafficking victims may not be able to ask for help in a public setting. That’s why MK also created a more discreet way for them to get support.

“We put up a sign in the bathrooms letting people know if they need help, they should put a blue sticker on the bottom of the urine cup. That’s a signal to staff to step in and help.”

MK’s work has already made a difference. She knows of one case where a team member noticed something was off about an underage patient who came in and reported it to law enforcement. It turned out there was an active human trafficking case already open involving the person in question.

“It’s amazing this team member took the knowledge and was able to help someone,” said MK. “She knew something about the situation was weird and didn’t hesitate to speak up.”

MK’s next goal is to do another round of training with more team members so they know what to look out for.

“My biggest message to the team is if you see something, say something. Even though we aren’t law enforcement, we can still report it and get the ball rolling and offer resources to those who need it.”

Image of four women nominated for Nightingale Awards
Mary "MK" Marnell (third from left) along with the other AdventHealth Parker Nightingale Award nominees

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