As travel health professionals we have a vital role in ensuring the health and safety of our travellers whilst away. The field of travel health is fast paced and constantly evolving. With these rapid changes means that it is more important than ever to stay up to date.

Why is it important to keep up to date in Travel Health?

In an increasingly interconnected world where it is easier and more accessible to travel than ever before, we are seeing new and emerging diseases evolve and spread rapidly. Covid-19 taught us that the world, and the face of travel, can change in an instant and highlighted the importance of staying prepared to new and emerging disease threats.

Travel health medicine is incredibly dynamic and constantly evolving due to many factors including changes in globalisation, urbanisation, climate and habitats. Due to this we have seen an influence in the spread of diseases and presence of vectors. Advancements in technology, new diagnostic tools, increased surveillance and monitoring has also seen major breakthroughs in the prevention and treatment of diseases.

By keeping up to date in travel health with the latest resources and guidance – and by educating, advising and protecting our travellers, we can play a part in helping to protect them from health risks whilst away.

The field of travel health can be one that is exciting and ever changing. However in order to stay up to date in travel health you need to take a proactive approach to your learning and professional development. Yet in an area where information is constantly changing. How on earth do you keep up to date?

1. Know your resources

It is important that any person advising a traveller of their risks accesses a reliable source where they can look up the latest outbreaks and help the traveller mitigate against the risks.

TravelHealthPro is the website comprising the travel health resources of National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) commissioned by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) for travel health professionals in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. TRAVAX is a subscription only website comprising the travel health resources of the Travel and International Health Team commissioned by Public Health Scotland.

The UKHSA Advisory Committee on Malaria Prevention (ACMP) provide the latest information and advice on malaria prevention in travellers. The Green Book provides the most up to date guidance on vaccines and vaccine procedures in the UK.

Utilise and know your way around your resources. Don’t rely on your knowledge on a countries risk without checking NaTHNaC or TRAVAX – you may not know about an outbreak that has just happened in that country or a recent change to guidance.

2. Stay up to date with the latest news on emerging diseases/outbreaks

Travel Health Resources. Keep up to date in travel health

It’s vital we stay informed about disease outbreaks and health alerts, to be able to provide the most accurate and up to date information to our travellers.

You can keep up to date in the latest in travel health by reading the Outbreak Surveillance section on TravelHealthPro and subscribing to their newsletter. Members of TRAVAX can subscribe to receive outbreak alerts, however non members can also view the outbreaks on their website under the Outbreaks Index or information can also be found through the NHS Fit for Travel news.

Stay up to date with other trusted websites and online platforms that provide accurate and current advice. This can include:

Promed is a global electronic reporting system for outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases. Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, also have lots of useful news articles and resources to share.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) provide a useful resource to get advice on travelling abroad, including the latest information on COVID-19, safety and security, entry requirements and travel warnings.

You can also subscribe to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to receive a vaccine update newsletter for information and news on changes to UK guidance and vaccinations or sign up to receive email alerts on immunisation news through the website.

3. Keep up to date with latest research in Travel Health

Research into infectious diseases and epidemiology is constantly ongoing and continues to uncover new information about diseases transmission, prevention and treatment which helps to inform guidance and advice.

Keep an eye on medical journals and publications on travel health and infectious diseases such as:

These resources offer detailed research findings, case studies, and expert perspectives and some offer free open access.

Whilst reading, think about how it relates back your practice, how it aligns with your current knowledge and experiences and how it might influence your consultations and discussions. By spending time reading regularly it helps to reinforce knowledge and keep you up to date, which benefits not just you but your travellers too.

We are all guilty of it – but try to replace aimless scrolling with micro learning – set yourself a goal – whether that be to read an article every day on the bus to work, or checking the latest health news sat down with a cup of tea!

4. Attend a conference or training event

Conference. Travel heath update

Attending a conference, webinar, workshop or training event on travel health can also help to provide a summary of the latest research, updates to guidance and discussions on emerging health risks. They also give the opportunity to network with other travel health professionals and ask questions to experts. Signing up to an online course or e-learning on a particular subject can also help to improve your knowledge and practice in the field.

Try to regularly review your continuing professional development (CPD) requirements and identify areas where you can enhance your knowledge and practice.

5. Be familiar with training standards in Travel Health

The Faculty of Travel Medicine (RCPSG) have produced the Good Practice Guidance for Providing a Travel Health Service which sets out to define the standards of care every practitioner should achieve in their practice of Travel Medicine for the health and safety of the international traveller.

The Royal College of Nursing – Competencies: travel health nursing: career and competence development is a document that can be used by all clinicians, which provides guidelines and standards of care. This was updated in May 2023 so if you haven’t familiarised yourself with the latest version – now is the time!

Aim to regularly review these standards of practice, competencies and guidance for self reflection on any training and learning needs. The competencies should be used during your appraisal to help track progress and identify any knowledge gaps that you may have.

6. Consider joining a professional network

You may wish to sign up to a professional network related to travel health medicine. In the UK, these can include:

By becoming a member of these organisations you can often access exclusive resources, webinars, conferences, journals, newsletters or platforms for discussions and networking.

You may also also want to consider pursuing a professional qualification in the field. By undertaking a professional qualification you will be required to undergo ongoing training and development to ensure that you are up to date.

7. Learn from your peers

Some of the time in travel heath, particularly to those new to the field, you may only learn or discover something new when faced with a particular situation. Every day is a new day, with different travellers going to different destinations with their own specific health needs and risks. Travellers risk can also change over time, from one month to the next, with new emerging diseases or outbreaks, or changes to recommendations. Every consultation and travel health risk assessment is therefore unique!

During 121’s or meetings with colleagues, discuss interesting clients that you might have seen and how you managed them. Did they have a particular complex need? Were they going on an unusual or interesting trip or to a far-flung remote destination? Did you discover an outbreak in that country that your colleague may not have been aware of?

Learning from each other is such a valuable tool and collaborating and sharing insights and experiences can help to develop yours and your peers knowledge base.

8. Join a Travel Health online forum/group

It can also be helpful to connect with other travel health professionals not just within your organisation but from other organisations too. One way to do this is a join an online forum, such as a Facebook group like the Travel Health Professionals UK & Ireland. Whilst these forums should not be used to seek for advice on specific individual cases. They can help to collaborate through educational discussions, sharing of resources, articles and training events.

9. Reflect on own experiences

A big part in keeping up to date in travel health is engaging in reflection. Consider the travellers you may have seen recently in your clinic, your consultations and if you faced any particular challenges. Think about what you might you need to learn and develop in order to improve your practice? Was there a question they asked you that maybe you didn’t know enough about? – spend 5 minutes reading up on this so that next time you are better equipped.

10. Know when and how to ask for help and advice!

Utilise your peers and more experienced colleagues or your on call medical advice within your organisation. Don’t forget NaTHNaC also have a helpline for health professionals and can help with queries in relation to travel scenarios that involve either complex itineraries, travellers with special health needs or complex yellow fever scenarios. Members of TRAVAX can also access support through their advice line too.

Finally, let’s empower our travellers

There is only so much we can cover within a short consultation and it is often impossible to discuss every aspect of risk with our travellers. We can help to empower our travellers to make informed decisions about their risks and health, by providing them with the resources they may need to access and keep up to date themselves whilst they are away!

Both Fit for Travel and TravelHealthPro can be accessed by travellers whilst away to help keep them up to date with the latest information.

In summary

Travel health is a continually changing, and dynamic field to work in. Emerging diseases and outbreaks can occur at any moment – advice can change at the drop of a hat. As travel health professionals we play an important role in ensuring that those travelling are safe and remain healthy to be able to embark on their journey across the globe. We also have to remain open to adapting and changing our practice and recommendations based on new information. This willingness to learn and adapt is a fundamental aspect of staying up to date in travel health

Yet staying up to date isn’t just a one off event or conference. We need to ensure we take steps to remain continually up to date and are aware of how to access the latest information and resources. Ultimately, ensuring we are able to give the most up to date and current advice to our travellers, will help to reduce their risks of diseases whilst travelling.

At Health Academy, we offer a variety of courses, both virtual and e-learning in order to help keep you up to date with the latest guidance and recommendations on Travel health. More information can be found in our Travel Health courses page.

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