Human trafficking in the health care setting: recommendations for the physical medicine and rehabilitation provider

Shayan N. Bhathena, Mollie R. Gordon, Carolina Gutierrez, Phuong Nguyen, John H. Coverdale, Jeannie Harden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: This study aims to provide trauma informed recommendations for screening and discusses responsibilities of the physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) provider for responding and advocating for patients experiencing human trafficking. Materials & methods: Existing literature relating to human trafficking across rehabilitation settings was reviewed. In addition, two cases of human trafficking in the rehabilitation setting are presented, including a confirmed case of human trafficking in an adult and a suspected case of human trafficking in a child. Results: No literature describing human trafficking in the PM&R setting was found. Four articles were found focusing on human trafficking in occupational health settings as opposed to physiatry, which were published in occupational health journals. Conclusions: There is a paucity of literature offering recommendations for screening and responding to suspected human trafficking situations in rehabilitation settings. Policies on human trafficking are needed in areas of rehabilitation such as polytrauma, brain injury, spinal cord injury, and musculoskeletal impairments in the adult and pediatric population. Those working with potential victims of human trafficking should employ a patient-centered, trauma-informed approach in which the patient’s freedom of choice is emphasized.IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATION  Human Trafficking   • There are no official policy statements on human trafficking by physical medicine & rehabilitation organizations.   • Trafficked persons often present with impairments that may be treated in the rehabilitation setting.   • Physiatrists may play a powerful role in identifying the needs of trafficked persons.   • We recommend a trauma-informed, multidisciplinary approach to managing these patients throughout their rehabilitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2549-2553
Number of pages5
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number15
StatePublished - 2023


  • Human trafficking
  • interdisciplinary education
  • recommendations
  • rehabilitation
  • trauma-informed care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation


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