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The Pros and Cons of Travel Health Nursing: What to Know Before Starting

3 minApril, 22 2024

What is Travel Health Nursing?

Basically, travel health nursing is a nursing specialty of caring for travelers before, during, and after their journey.

The travel health nursing professional, not to be mistaken for the “travel nurse ,” is an official ANA recognized nursing specialty . Travel health nursing is defined by the American Travel Health Nurses Association (ATHNA)  as the specialized nursing practice that advances the well-being of all travelers, both domestic and international, in all phases/stages of travel and in all clinical settings. Travel health nurses provide travelers with pre-travel preparation, including vaccinations and health advisories ; in-transit support; and any post- travel evaluation and management that may be needed.

Travel health nursing grew out of the need for health consultations prior to foreign travel, especially around immunization requirements and options. Many travel health nurses work in travel health clinics, occupational health clinics, or as part of a travel medicine division in a larger health system. Travel health nursing has grown into a far larger scope and is a specialty in its own right. 

What Are the Qualifications?

You need a valid RN license, nursing experience, the ability to think on your feet, solid research and synthesis skills, and a good deal of what is sometimes called “chutzpa”. Perhaps most of all, you need to be comfortable with knowing that you will never be “the” definitive expert on anything. The scope of knowledge is so vast and changeable that you will find yourself always needing to research and double check. Recommendations, health and social conditions, and options for treatment and prophylaxis change constantly, and you will need to be able to balance confidence and humility.


What Can I Expect to be Doing as a Travel Health Nurse?

Travel health nursing grew out of the need for travelers to be up-to-date on immunizations and to know what prophylactic medications to procure prior to foreign travel. This kind of pre-travel counseling is still a major portion of the duties of a travel health nurse. Expect to spend time researching immunization requirements for entry into destination countries, as well as prophylactic and emergency medications for endemic and epidemic diseases. Many travelers are needing consultations for traveling with their entire family. As more and more people travel for medical tourism, expect to be partaking in managing more complicated health histories, not just the stereotypically young healthy fit adult traveler.

Travel nurses may also work with patients during travel. For example, as a consultant, you may need to be available for information, support, and advice. In some cases, you may actually travel with your client(s), either individually or as the onsite nurse for a larger group of travelers.

Advanced Practice Nurses (APRNs) can practice to the full extent of their licensure in travel health nursing and can serve as the primary healthcare provider for travelers before, during, and after their journeys.

The Future of Travel Health Nursing

As international travel gets increasingly complex and global health challenges are at the forefront of public awareness, demand for travel health nursing is expected to continue to grow. Both remote and onsite positions are expected to be in demand. 

Learn more about the Travel Health Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice here! 

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