May 07, 2019

The Art of Nursing: Shining Through in the Virtual Setting

By Julie Sera, M.S.N., R.N.

For the more than 4 million nurses in the United States, their profession in many ways is a true calling rather than merely a job. In crucial ways, our role extends far beyond providing patients with excellent bedside healthcare services, to encompass the opportunity and duty to provide compassion and empathy to patients, many of whom are facing some of life’s most challenging medical decisions.

When most think of nursing, they think of the role we play during an in-person care encounter. Today, however, nurses are playing a critical role in patient care in the virtual care setting. To some, it may seem counterintuitive. How can you be a great nurse if you’re not in the room with the patient? I can tell you first hand – virtual care creates the opportunity to provide that same high-quality care, and at times going beyond so, as they are supporting patients through every step of their healthcare journey.

While they may not be administering IVs, there’s no doubt that virtual-care nurses play crucial roles at challenging moments and leading patients and families through sometimes deeply challenging situations.

In my role as clinical operations manager for Teladoc Health, I have the privilege of working with more than 100 registered nurses (RNs) around the world who work closely with our physicians and clinicians to provide expert medical opinions. Many of these patients are coming to us with life-changing medical conditions –musculoskeletal, neurological and cancer diagnosis — and it’s gratifying, to say the least, because we are able to provide that compassion and empathy to patients even when we’re not in the same room.

It is incredibly rewarding to be able to spend time with patients listening to their concerns, and providing that reassurance that they’re in the best hands. We work directly with referring case managers and engage top medical experts to thoroughly research conditions, clarify diagnoses and recommend treatment plans. Sometimes the outcomes are the assurance that a knee replacement is the right option. Other times, it’s the emotional task of helping a family navigate through a life-changing diagnosis.

This was the case recently, as one of our nurses worked with a mother whose infant was diagnosed with a rare cancer and was facing the difficult decision of proceeding with an urgent surgery. With only days before the surgery needed to occur, the nurse was able to spend time with the mother on the phone, assessing the key information needed to quickly get her an Expert Medical Opinion while also actively listening to her concerns and establishing a compassionate, trusting relationship.

As an advocate for the family, the nurse engaged our interdisciplinary case team, who worked collaboratively and urgently to provide a report to this family before the surgical date. The report offered two treatment plans and invaluable education and answers to her specific questions the nurse helped her develop.

The fact is, our nurses strive to leave no stone unturned. Here are just a few examples of how our nurses are ensuring exceptional care delivery:

  • We’re there at the start of the journey. We assess all the details of where our patients have received care by their treating providers and collaborate with our Associate Physicians to determine what records are most clinically appropriate for their condition. We then activate our team of medical record coordinators to collect those the medical records, including pathology, for review by our experts.

  • We take the time to build rapport. In contrast to nurses in the traditional brick and mortar setting, be that inpatient or outpatient, virtual care nurses have the luxury of time and continuity on our side. We have a unique opportunity to build a meaningful rapport and trust with each patient over a longer period. Our global team can spend in-depth time with patients and families – our typical first call lasts an hour – which is far more time than nurses can typically devote to any single patient.

  • We leverage the most comprehensive clinical guidelines. Our nurses draw on their extensive training and follow evidence-based protocols and updated journal articles in collaboration with our Associate Physicians, to produce a complete report with a comprehensive summary of recommendations. Additionally, our nurses work with our patients to develop individualized questions to ask our expert physicians about their about diagnoses, treatment plans, and prognosis, based on the patient’s holistic care needs.

  • We put the patient’s care first. Given our position as an independent third-party, we can bring an unbiased and thorough opinion that reflects a more holistic focus that can encompass psychosocial and education needs.

  • We provide care for a wide array of conditions. In any given month, our nurses tackle everything from orthopedics to immunology to oncology. They’ll encounter – and immerse themselves to learn about – rare diseases and conditions. This broad clinical diversity is very appealing to our team and as a result, they acquire new skills (and even CEUs) and keep learning in one of the most stimulating and demanding nursing environments.

Teladoc Health’s nurses are the backbone of the care and empathy that is the hallmark of our profession. It’s a dedicated, experienced, and passionate team that I’m proud to salute this National Nurses’ Week – and every week – throughout the year.

Julie Sera, M.S.N, R.N., is the clinical operations manager for Teladoc Health. She previously worked at Boston Children’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess, and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.