Advice and development

Identifying and supporting victims of human trafficking and modern slavery

Nursing student Louise Cahill's volunteer work in tackling human trafficking and modern slavery earned her a highly commended in the Andrew Parker Student Nurse Award category at the 2017 RCNi Awards. 
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Nursing student Louise Cahill's volunteer work in tackling human trafficking and modern slavery earned her a highly commended in the Andrew Parker Student Nurse Award category at the 2017 RCNi Awards

I was volunteering at a refugee centre when a lady who I was providing a hygiene pack for told me that she was the happiest she could remember being. She said she had previously been a slave, and no matter how bad I thought her situation was now, it was always better than her past.

I was shocked. How could someone be a slave in the 21st century? I then started volunteering for an organisation that campaigns for greater awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery.

After a year, I was offered the

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Nursing student Louise Cahill's volunteer work in tackling human trafficking and modern slavery earned her a highly commended in the Andrew Parker Student Nurse Award category at the 2017 RCNi Awards 


Louise Cahill believes nursing students can play a vital role in identifying and supporting
potential victims of human trafficking.

I was volunteering at a refugee centre when a lady who I was providing a hygiene pack for told me that she was the happiest she could remember being. She said she had previously been a slave, and no matter how bad I thought her situation was now, it was always better than her past. 

I was shocked. How could someone be a slave in the 21st century? I then started volunteering for an organisation that campaigns for greater awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery. 

After a year, I was offered the opportunity to volunteer with a different organisation that worked directly with women who had experienced sexual exploitation and human trafficking. I have been a volunteer there for three years now, and plan to continue doing this. 

Identification and support

Nursing students are not trained to identify and support victims of human trafficking and modern slavery. My training hasn't given me any learning opportunities in theory or clinical practice that could equip me with the skills needed to identify and support these vulnerable individuals.

Despite this, I have fought for change, and have been able to make a real difference to patient care. Last year, I entered a poster into the London Network of Nurses and Midwives Homelessness Group conference, and won first place with my poster 'Human Trafficking and Health: A Role for Student Nurses'. 

This described the vital role nursing students can play in identifying and supporting potential victims of human trafficking, including what to look and listen for, the importance of sharing knowledge, and how to raise concerns. 

I then developed a training session for nursing students, which I have been presenting at universities around the country, showing how they can identify and support victims of human trafficking and modern slavery. Every nursing student I speak to is another student with their eyes open, looking to find the unspeakable. 

Advocating for others

Through my charity work, and safeguarding contacts I made in clinical practice, I was asked to speak to midwives at a London trust. A week later, our charity received a phone call from one of the midwives, who informed us that she had an expectant mother who she was concerned may fit our profile. The woman, who had been trafficked, was then supported by the trust and our organisation. 

Earlier this year, the midwives and I developed a tool to help healthcare professionals identify and respond to victims of modern slavery and human trafficking. 

Reflecting on my voluntary experience and time in clinical practice spent with safeguarding teams, I realised that as a nursing student, I did not need to wait for change, I could be the change. 

I never make assumptions about patients and always look for the story they may be not able to articulate. I am a stronger and more capable nurse because I can better fulfil one of the most important nursing roles: to advocate for those who may not be able to advocate for themselves. 


Louise Cahill is a third-year nursing student at the University of Hertfordshire. She was awarded a highly commended in the Andrew Parker Student Nurse Award category at the 2017 RCNi Awards. 

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