CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (July 10, 2018) – Mercy Medical Center has added a new staff position to address human trafficking. It’s the first hospital-based position of its kind in Iowa and one of just a handful in the country.
Teresa Davidson, ARNP, MSN, MA, nurse practitioner at Mercy, has been hired part-time as Mercy’s anti-human trafficking coordinator. She is responsible for leading the hospital’s efforts to strengthen the comprehensive response to victims of human trafficking.
“We know there is a great need for community response and collaboration on this growing problem,” said Davidson. “I’m so pleased that Mercy has taken a leadership role in addressing this issue. Human trafficking is really a modern-day form of slavery and there’s a huge need for a united effort to address the safety needs of the victims and develop a comprehensive response to the problem. This is a great passion of mine and I’m honored to lead the effort.”
Davidson said her initial goals in the new role are to create specific protocols for Mercy and its clinics, and initiate education for staff members who are most likely to encounter victims of human trafficking. Mercy’s Emergency department, Birthplace, Pediatrics departments and Behavioral Health department will be some of the first units of the hospital to receive training. Davidson will also offer education to other area hospitals and clinics and, eventually, across the state.
Human trafficking is a major public health problem, both domestically and internationally. Healthcare providers are often the first, and sometimes only, professionals to interact with trafficking victims who are still in captivity. They have a unique opportunity to connect them with much-needed support and services.
“Human trafficking is a problem that goes unseen for most of us; yet, we know it affects many innocent victims,” said Sr. Susan O’Connor, vice president of mission integration at Mercy. “I appreciate Teresa’s commitment to helping Mercy confront this problem and provide more education. I look forward to the positive effect this new position will have on our community and our state.”
Because human trafficking is an underground crime, statistics regarding how prevalent it is are difficult to obtain. The Iowa Attorney General’s Office has stated it occurs at some level in every town in every state. According to Davidson, in our area, nearly every agency that deals with adolescents and young adults is reporting incidents of human trafficking, with the incidence increasing every day.
Davidson will continue working part-time in Mercy’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) as she leads Mercy in anti-human trafficking work. She is also a member of the Iowa National Anti-Human Trafficking (NAHT) Board and the executive director of Chains Interrupted, which is based in Cedar Rapids.