Nurses learn about topical issues

Published 12:01 am Saturday, April 28, 2018

NATCHEZ — “People tell me all the time, ‘Sex trafficking doesn’t happen in my town,’” Paula Broome told a crowd of medical professionals Friday.

“They are wrong.”

Broome, speaking at the annual conference of the Mississippi Nurses Association, told the more than 100 that human trafficking is far more prevalent than commonly thought.

Email newsletter signup

Broome, chief of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Bureau of Victim Assistance and special assistant to the attorney general, handles human trafficking cases in Mississippi.

At the beginning of her presentation on the subject, Broome asked the nurses in the room to raise their hands if they were aware of human trafficking in their area.

In the crowd, more than a dozen hands rose in the air.

“And that is just what we know about,” Broome said.

The Mississippi Nurses Association’s annual conference, being held through today at the Natchez Convention Center, is designed to teach medical professionals about contemporary topics, said Teresa Malone, executive director of the association.

“This is something they will all likely deal with at some point in their career,” Malone said. “They have to know how to react, what to look for, what the causes are.”

Though the human trafficking presentation was one of the keynotes of the annual meeting, Malone said the conference is designed to teach nurses about a variety of issues they may face.

As human trafficking has risen to the national spotlight, Malone said it has become clear that nurses and nurse practitioners often come in contact with the violent aftermath.

“This is so important to us,” Malone said. “It’s a patient issue. It’s a health care issue. It’s an issue for the state.”

Malone said no one could more aptly describe the causes and effects of human trafficking than Broome.

“She is a phenomenal authority on the subject,” Malone said. “Her dedication to this issue should be applauded.”

Before the crowd of nurses, Broome spoke of her experience investigating human trafficking cases with the attorney general’s office.

Hattiesburg, Jackson, Biloxi and Oxford — all had cases in which someone’s body was sold against their will, and many of the arrests were made in the last year.

“Traffickers target the vulnerable,” Broome said. “Because they know they can get them. To traffickers, these kids are products.”

Broome showed video testimony of young women who are survivors of sex trafficking, explained that traffickers often “recruit” runaways and children between the ages of 12 and 14, though some of the cases she showed featured children as young as 3.

“If you’re a child and you run away or you’re in a bad situation, what are you looking for?” she asked the crowd. “Love. And traffickers will use that.”

Human trafficking is not, Broome said, like it is portrayed in movies.

“I’m sure you’ve all seen the movie ‘Taken,’ right?” she said. “It’s not normally like that.”

Matthew Bolton, a nurse practitioner in Hattiesburg, said he attended the presentation Friday because he has recently become aware of how prevalent human trafficking has become.

“A friend of mine, her niece was ‘recruited,’” Bolton said. “They found her, but it was a few weeks later. It’s popping up everywhere. We see the signs even in Hattiesburg.”

At some points in the presentation, the nurse gasped or sighed heavily. The topic — even for people who see death and injury on a daily basis — is still horrifying, Broome said.

“You have to know about this very serious issue,” Broome said. “Because more likely than not, you will encounter it.”

Other topics presented during the conference, included diabetes, HIV, cardiovascular disease, mental health and more.