By Jeffrey J. Barrows, DO, MA (Ethics)
Imagine you are staffing the urgent care clinic at your hospital when you encounter a 19-year-old foreign national woman brought in by a family member because of a possible fractured arm. Radiologic studies show a spiral fracture of the radius raising the suspicion of abuse as the etiology of the fracture. As you continue your evaluation of this patient, you begin to notice that she appears cautious and at times fearful of this family member. You’re not sure exactly what’s going on and initially consider domestic violence. However several things remind you of that lecture on human trafficking several months ago. You try to remember the various indicators of trafficking and what you are supposed to do if trafficking is suspected. You wonder if you should try to separate the family member from the patient and whether there is any danger to you and your staff. What if the family member refuses to leave? The more you think about it, the more you realize that you are not prepared to deal with the problem before you and find yourself feeling helpless and frustrated.
As greater numbers of health care professionals become educated about the issue of human trafficking, they are increasingly recognizing patients who might qualify as trafficking victims, but usually within a setting lacking advanced preparation, thus experiencing this frustration and sense of helplessness.
The answer lies in the development of a response protocol designed specifically for possible human trafficking victims. All hospitals and large clinics should take the time and effort to develop their own response protocol for potential victims of trafficking just as they have already prepared protocols for victims of domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault. This will allow them to safely and effectively assist the human trafficking victims regularly coming into their facilities. Fortunately, there is a free toolkit online that describes in detail the steps necessary to develop a response protocol at: https://healtrafficking.org/linkagesresources/protocol-toolkit/
There are multiple factors that complicate our ability as health care professionals to assist these victims, including the issue of trauma bonding, associated criminal activity, and the real danger these victims and their families face. Safely navigating these hazards and difficulties requires advanced preparation and careful consultation with various experts in your location. These experts include those law enforcement officials in your city who focus on the crime of human trafficking, local child protective agencies that have a full understanding of child sex trafficking, and Homeland Security officials who understand and can assist foreign national victims of human trafficking. In addition, local non-profits that focus their efforts to assist victims of human trafficking are critical partners as you encounter the many varied nonmedical needs of these victims.
Perhaps you can be the champion within your health care facility that initiates and facilitates the development of a specialized response protocol for victims of human trafficking, so that you and other health care professionals in your organization don’t experience frustration and helplessness as you encounter these victims, but instead experience the fulfillment that your encounter has truly made a difference in the lives of these suffering victims.
Today we want to highlight a great resource from our annual conference - the audio version of the breakout sessions that are offered each year. These breakout sessions are FREE to members of MedicalMissions.com, and we hope you take advantage of going back and re-listening to your favorite sessions or catching some of the sessions that you missed.
The highlighted session for today deals with resilience. Drawing principles from psychological research and Christian scriptures, this workshop will explore factors of resilience for those working in high risk, high stress cross-cultural work. Listeners will discover what enhances resilience and what contributes to decreased coping. The workshop will introduce practical resources for responding to stress and trauma with resilience, grace, and perseverance.
We hope you enjoy this session!
During the horrific mid-20th century, my Omi along with her family was forced from her home in Europe. She was put into a Nazi boarding school in Germany but later escaped to Canada. However, my great-grandfather was sent to a “work camp” for his faith and was not seen again. While reflecting and reading about the inhumane situations created by the current conflicts in the Middle East I could only think of my Omi, and the worse sufferings that these current refugees were experiencing as they fled their homes. I knew I needed to act.
During the course of the past week, we have witnessed true devastation in the Bahamas due to the destruction of Hurricane Dorian. With sustained wind speeds of 185 miles per hour, Dorian is one of the worst storms in history. At least 43 people have been killed, but officials are warning that hundreds more are still missing. The United Nations believes at least 70,000 people are homeless on Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands.
All of this devastation is why Samaritan's Purse jumped into immediate action: "Samaritan's Purse has airlifted our Emergency Field Hospital and a medical team to the Bahamas, at the request of the World Health Organization and the Bahamas government. The 40-bed mobile facility can receive up to 100 patients daily and features an operating room with capacity for 10 surgeries per day, as well as an obstetrics ward with delivery room" (Hurricane Dorian Relief, samaritanspurse.org). Prior to deploying the Field Hospital, Samaritan's Purse had already sent 30 tons of emergency items and over a dozen disaster relief team specialists.
Many of you are wondering how you can be involved as a health care provider. Samaritan's Purse trains people just like you for times such as this. If you are interested in becoming part of their disaster relief team, learn more about their Disaster Assistance Response Teams. You can also donate to the work that Samaritan's Purse is doing: Donate to Hurricane Dorian Relief
Here at MedicalMissions.com, we always want you to have the resources you need to engage in wherever you feel that God is calling you.
Laura Smelter, Director of Training at Christian Health Service Corps presented a breakout session on Responding Well: Knowing and Applying International Principles and Standards in Disaster and Refugee Response
We hope that this email will be a reminder to you of the gifts that God has given you and the many ways that you can use them. Our partner, Samaritan's Purse will be presenting their work at this year's GMHC, so we do hope to see you in November! GMHC 2019 Register Here
Medical missions is hard. One could say that, if it isn’t hard, it isn’t medical missions. As Christians, we are indisputably called to walk into the dark places of God’s creation and proclaim his glory and his love. Our hands get dirty, and our hearts get beat up.
A few months ago, at my hospital in Burundi, things were especially difficult. Electricity was out. The hematology machine was broken, as was the x-ray. I had a slew of patients who didn’t necessarily seem incurable at their arrival, but despite all our efforts, they continued to worsen. That's a particular challenge, since it feels like their being in the hospital is associated with them getting worse, instead of better. With death, instead of life. Every day I did rounds with a very green group of Burundian medical students, who had never been this entwined with caring for people this sick before.
How do we bring hope? For that matter, where is the hope? How do I encourage my students to endure? How do I beat off my own cynicism? To avoid a premature resolution of this tension, let me be clear: We believe in the free, eternal grace of God through Jesus. We believe in eternal life, and we work to integrate evangelism into all that we do at our hospital. However, neither my head nor my heart accepts that this annuls the awfulness of a young person dying of a preventable disease. No one knows this better than Jesus, weeping at the tomb of his friend.
Over the last several years, I have discussed these questions many times, with students or with visiting doctors, and each time I'm of course talking to myself as well. There are as many answers as there are challenges, but I’ll share three things that have been an encouragement to me.
First, if I want to be here when I can help, I also have to be here when I can't. Every time my patient unexpectedly dies, or the test comes back positive for the non-treatable possibility, or my last therapeutic option just isn't working, part of me wants to abandon ship, to run away from all that I can't do. I know that won't help my patients, but I guess I want to pretend that such situations don't exist, at least not in such a common and stark form.
We can't know ahead of time whom we can help. Sometimes we can make a great medical impact. Other times, we can't. The two are inextricably linked. Part of what we love in medical missions is the chance to dramatically alter someone's life for the better. Yet there is another side to that coin, because the magnitude and frequency of the tragedies go up, in a seemingly proportional manner. This must be endured, but not just endured. We have a calling here as well, for this is another place where we have to learn to trust God and find some way to bless and comfort these patients with the blessings and comfort that God has given us (2 Cor 1:3-4).
Second, as Paul writes: Fight the good fight (1 Tim 6:12). It feels like a fight. It is a fight. But it's a good fight. So, let's keep fighting it.
Third, though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day (2 Cor 4:16). This is just as incredibly true for me as it is for my patients. For though we are missionaries with a message to proclaim, part of our target audience is ourselves. Part of where the kingdom needs to come is inside our own hearts. So this hard road is God’s road of sanctification for us. Thus, the doctor is the patient, and we all alike need the hope of the gospel that proclaims that suffering will be redeemed, that all things will be made new, and that our God is the God who, out of death, brings resurrection and eternal life.