Gail Pearson is an Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioner with more than 35 years of experience treating patients with gastrointestinal issues and digestive disorders. She has been providing care via telehealth for the patients of a GI practice in the Seattle area from her home in Kentucky.
We talked to Gail about the ways GI care has shifted over the course of her career, the challenges advanced practice providers are facing today, and her key to connecting with patients in a virtual care setting.
What prompted you to transition from in-person nursing to virtual care?
I’ve been a nurse my whole life. For the past 10 years, I was working for a GI practice in Denver, where I saw patients in the office and made rounds at the hospital. The doctors were awesome and I loved my patients, but when I needed to take care of my mother and started having some minor health issues of my own, I thought it might be time to retire.
Lo and behold, around that time I received a phone call from a colleague about Telebelly Health. That’s when it occurred to me: Maybe I could still do the work I love while also taking the time to manage my own health and family responsibilities.
How do you establish a personal connection with your patients when you’re not in the same room?
Over the years, I developed the ability to walk into an exam room and quickly develop a rapport with a patient. When I first started doing telehealth visits during the pandemic, I wasn’t sure how that would work without being in the same room and putting my hands on that patient.
But COVID taught us we could do things differently and get the same results. Because I’ve done this work for so long, I know the key to any patient visit is to listen. It’s been easy for me to connect with people through a computer screen—I simply rely on my listening skills and give my patients feedback and empathy just as I would in the office or a hospital room.
Overall, most people have been receptive to virtual visits. And that includes older patients, who love the convenience of telehealth even though they may not be as familiar with all the workings of the Internet. They appreciate that they don’t have to drive across town or arrange for someone to take them to an appointment. Occasionally, I find someone who isn’t comfortable with the technology and prefers to go into the office to see someone in person, and that’s OK too.
How do you share information with doctors in your practice, other specialists and patients?
In the old days, we used paper charts to keep track of our patients’ medical histories. Sometimes we had to search for records that weren’t filed properly or ask patients what specialists they had seen since their last visit and the results of lab tests and scans. Now, with electronic medical records, we have much more information at our fingertips.
Say someone goes to the emergency room due to a sudden onset of abdominal pain. In the ED, they get lab studies and a CT scan. Before electronic records, that patient would come into the office and try to explain to us what happened. Did the doctor see something on the scan? What did the lab results show? Now I can open that record, discuss the results with the patient and explain next steps for their GI treatment plan.
The Telebelly Health platform does a great job of putting patient records in front of me. Then, I can add my notes from the telehealth visit. We’re also working on having patients fill out questionnaires so we can have all that information available in the electronic record as well.
What is the biggest benefit of telehealth?
The great thing about virtual care is we can give patients access to care much sooner than if they had to wait for an in-person appointment. I saw patients earlier this month who have already had their procedures. Compare that to patients waiting two or three months to see a provider in the office, and then waiting even longer for a procedure.
We will always need brick-and-mortar medical offices, but to facilitate the process of getting in and getting seen, virtual care is very helpful to patients and the GI practices that are struggling to keep up with demand.
Are you an Advanced Practice Professional looking for more flexibility in your work? Contact us to learn more about remote telehealth jobs.