What is Travel Health Nursing?
Travel health nursing is an emerging subspecialty that has evolved since the 1980's in parallel with the field of travel medicine. Travel health nurses (THN) promote the health and safety of the traveler. Travel health nursing has a unique body of knowledge and skill set. Like travel medicine, it is an interdisciplinary practice that employs the knowledge and skills of epidemiology, tropical medicine, vaccinology, public health and health education.
Each year more than 40 million Americans and 8.2 million Canadians travel internationally for work, pleasure, study or humanitarian efforts- and that number continues to grow. Included in those who travel are the very young, senior citizens, pregnant women, and persons with chronic illness and disabilities. The health risks of international travel vary and depend upon multiple factors such as destination, duration and season of travel, trip accommodations, trip activities, and the underlying health of the traveler. THNs consider all aspects of travel health care in order to help the traveler prevent and manage injury and illness abroad.
THNs work in a wide variety of health settings to provide travel health services to individuals, families and groups. In the United States, it is estimated that more than 2000 nurses work full or part-time in this specialty in travel health clinics, college health, occupational health, the military, the government, ambulatory care practices, pediatric practices and public health programs.
Pre-travel care, with its focus on disease prevention and health promotion, is the cornerstone of travel health nursing care. THNs assess the traveler's health, and their risks in order to implement a customized plan of preventive care that includes immunizations, travel medications and supplies, health counseling and referrals for care during travel. In addition to delivering pre-travel consultations, some THNs work as managers, educators, researchers or providers of post-travel care.
Nurses enter this field from many different professional backgrounds and most are self-taught. Travel health nursing is a developing specialty, but one that is not yet recognized by the American Nurses Association or the Canadian Nurses Association. To date, there is no formal course of training offered at U.S. or Canadian schools of nursing, however continuing education programs and conferences are now available in North America and around the world. Many THNs participate in activities of the International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM) and the American Society of Tropical Medicine (ASTMH). Nurses are eligible to sit for certificate examinations offered by both groups.
The Future...ATHNA is committed to the professional growth and development of travel health nursing. Educational programming is part of our mission and will be a regular offering on the ATHNA website.