Accreditation

Treating violence and abuse victims with PEARR

Briefings on Accreditation and Quality, January 1, 2019

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A step-by-step guide on communicating with patients you suspect to be at risk

Holly Austin Gibbs has been the director of Dignity Health’s Human Trafficking Response Program since 2015. She is also a survivor of child sex trafficking. Rescued at 14 by law enforcement, she was taken to an emergency department for assessment.

“What I remember most about this experience,” she says, “is that I was left alone in a room—I felt very isolated. The healthcare staff didn’t talk to me. I felt like they were disgusted by me, like I wasn’t worth their time. In reality, the staff probably didn’t know what to say to me.”

Dignity Health system has teamed with healthcare educators HEAL Trafficking and the Pacific Survivor Center to create a tool that could identify and care for victims/survivors of any form of abuse, neglect, or violence, including human trafficking. Together, they published the PEARR Tool, a suite of procedures to guide providers in providing assistance to possible abuse victims.

The worst thing a care provider can do when they suspect victimization, Gibbs says, is ignore the patient’s needs and concerns. “This is why we developed the PEARR Tool,” she says. “It offers step-by-step guidance for healthcare professionals to offer assistance to victims/survivors of violence. And it offers example statements to help get the conversation started. The best approach someone can take is one that prioritizes the potential victim’s wishes, safety, and well-being.”

Released in 2018, PEARR reflects principles of a trauma-informed and victim/patient-centered approach. It also provides additional instructions at various points where a conversation with a patient might come to an end.

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