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How to broaden your patients' horizons with lifestyle advice

Marilyn Eveleigh
Consultant Editor

Just like me, travellers were not put off by political unrest, terrorism, the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, the war in the Middle East, industrial disputes at home and abroad, cramped airline seats and the highlighted risks of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. No, huge numbers could not wait to get their annual dose of sun (and sunburn), sand and wild nights; others wanted to see the world before getting tied into a university course and student loan; there were those who wanted to make the most of the low-cost airline offers that matched the growth of the weekend break overseas; many took eagerly anticipated journeys to visit relatives in near and far-flung corners of the world; but others had no choice and travelled as part of their job, often two or more times a week.

This pattern of travel is likely to grow as costs decline and public expectations increase. As a society we have fewer barriers to travelling abroad - holiday packages are easily accessed and cheap, international companies have offices and workers moving around the globe and travel is a relatively safe activity. Yet this situation can lead patients and professionals into thinking there is little need for preparation to protect health and wellbeing.

This edition of NiP should set us all thinking again. Empowering patients to manage their health through lifestyle advice is core to the nursing role, and never more so than when the public become complacent. Travel health advice is readily available from airlines, tour operators, the media and the internet. It is general, relevant, and much is made up of common sense.

Those who rarely become complacent are those patients who have a chronic disease. These patients are already likely to have raised anxieties about their disease management, and the uncertainties travel can impose mean specialist clinical knowledge should be tailored to their needs. Asthma triggers may change, circulation alters in different environments and climates, and differing time zones can confuse diabetic medication regimens.
Primary care nursing is pivotal to supporting patients, with specialist clinical and lifestyle advice tailored to their disease and current health. For most patients, primary care is the only source of this advice - and this is likely to become the case for most chronic diseases as fewer patients are accessing secondary care. Written self-management plans for when there is a deterioration in their condition are the key to building confidence in compromised patients. How to recognise the deterioration, what to do and who to contact are the factors common to all self-management plans. Simple but effective, effective if simple.

So before you are off to plan your next trip, read and enjoy this edition - it could make all the difference to your patients!