Preparing for Work-Related Travel Abroad

 New service offers travel-related medical advice, vaccinations for employees

Shelby Hill-McCray, a senior nurse for Employee Occupational Health and Wellness, provides travel-related vaccinations and advice for employees travelling abroad on Duke business.

Before Sarah Trent's trip to Ghana to support the development of a Duke fellowship program, she provided her travel plans and vaccination history to Employee Occupational Health and Wellness through a simple online questionnaire. 

Two days later, Trent, assistant director of International Operations at the Duke Global Health Institute, had an appointment at the new Employee Travel Clinic in the Duke Clinic building. 

"They reviewed everything and decided all I needed was a preventive prescription for medication to treat possible stomach upset," she said.

The Travel Clinic at Employee Occupational Health and Wellness (EOHW) is a new service offering travel-related medical advice, vaccinations and follow-up screenings to staff and faculty traveling for business or providing healthcare abroad.  This service is part of Duke's continuing support of its expanding global programs, offering a convenient process and location for employees to prepare for health concerns around international travel. The ability to have charges sent directly to departments who are paying for work-related expenses also reduces reimbursement paperwork. 

The idea for a travel clinic for employees first surfaced with EOHW's involvement in preparing Duke faculty and staff for travel to Haiti after the devastating earthquake in Jan. 2010. 

"We've been tweaking our processes since then and gradually have expanded to work with staff from all across campus," said Jeffery McNeil, the nurse practitioner who helped create the online travel questionnaire

When an employee enters his or her health and travel data in the questionnaire, McNeil reviews the information and replies with an initial phone call or email indicating if the employee should come in for vaccinations or other travel medications. If the employee chooses to make an appointment, EOHW travel nurses provide the necessary prescriptions, vaccinations and personalized information for health conditions that might present special risks in particular travel destinations. Employees also receive country-specific information about how to prevent illness while travelling and information about other health-related resources, such as Duke's International SOS program for travel assistance. 

"We tailor our advice," said Dr. Carol Epling, co-director of EOHW. "Someone going to Haiti to provide medical care and someone going to China for a conference have very different needs."

Employees visiting areas of the world where certain diseases are prevalent or those providing health care are also given an appointment to return to EOHW after their travels to be tested for communicable diseases such as tuberculosis. 

"We want to not only protect our travelers while they are gone, but our colleagues and patients when they come back," McNeil said. 

For more information about the EOHW Travel Clinic, call 919-684-3136, option 2.