Through the journey of a patient across the medical travel care continuum, one specific role is often a constant. Around the world, the profession of nursing has maintained a long and integral role in the delivery of care. The modern understanding of the profession encounters greater relevance now more than ever. To put it simply – without nursing, the realities of managing the medical travel care continuum would be nearly impossible.
Very few would debate the fact that nurses spend more time in direct contact with patients than physicians do and/or any other stakeholder while moving across the care continuum. In particular, nurses play a critical role in a medical traveler’s perception of quality of care and the overall experience at a destination.
For organizations considering the expansion of their brand globally or who are emphasizing a particular service line, nursing leadership must be prioritized as it has a significant impact on a healthcare organization’s culture and it is where the basic principles of caring and professionalism are consistently displayed.
Nurses also represent the most important professional in the medical travel care continuum who by nature and through training, often anticipate a patient’s need beyond the treatment being received. For the medical travel care continuum, nurses are the front-line as well as the backbone of patient care delivered.
Demands of Nursing in Medical Travel
Medical travelers will often encounter a different experience than the average patient-seeking healthcare services due to the increased demands from logistics, realities of travel before and after healthcare procedures, cultural differences and at times, the unfamiliarity of the destination. When you consider the challenges of managing medical travelers along with the high expectations of being a nurse, one truly has to acknowledge that nurses in medical travel programs experience one of the most demanding professions in the world and require a high level of commitment and dedication to their job and patients.
Nurses balance and fill a number of roles across the medical travel care continuum. They act as a companions, caregivers, and teachers and are the true navigators of the medical travel care continuum. For certain, the industry would collapse without nurses leading and supporting the delivery of care across the medical travel care continuum. Depending on where a patient may be traveling from or why he or she is traveling, a nurse can take on various roles based on the unique needs of medical travel patients. These roles include:
Communicator & Educator: Nurses often act as an educator or teacher in the interest of delivering effective communication. Many stakeholders globally acknowledge that effective communication across a care continuum can improve and promote positive outcomes for patients. Patients and their support system often have to retain a significant amount of new information to understand their recovery process as well as the preparation process prior to travel. This “information-overload” can overwhelm patients and companions and cause undue anxiety and stress. Nurses can function as a buffer to ensure patients and companions are not overwhelmed, while at the same time communicating important information in a timely and compassionate manner.
Patient Advocate: Advocating for a patient is widely recognized as one of the most important services a nurse can provide to a patient and a healthcare organization focused on medical travel. Topics such as patient rights are critical under this role, in particular because a medical travel patient may feel especially vulnerable and anxious due to the stress associated with travel and having to face a new environment – if not a strange culture and language. This role is a prioritized topic under the Patient Hospitality Experience competency within the standards recognized by the Global Healthcare Accreditation (GHA).
Culturally Competent Care Manager: The care provided to a medical travel patient should always focus on the unique needs and requirements of each patient and will require varying degrees of skills, attention and strategies to provide total care and, in particular, cultural competent care. Nurses are particularly inclined to care for their patients holistically. Holistic care can be defined as healing the whole person versus treating a specific disease pathology or completing an individual procedure. For medical travelers encountering a new destination or a new culture as part of their medical travel experience, culturally competent care across the entire medical travel care continuum is critical to delivering a positive medical travel experience. Additionally, the overall care management processes should be connected and seamless to ensure a successful medical travel outcome.