Scott Scheuermann, Nurse Practitioner, has been working with Dr. Ahmed Sadek at Orlando Epilepsy Center (OEC) for 2-years. He is originally from Alabama where he worked in a large Medical Center in multiple specialties as a nurse for about 10 years. He relocated to Arizona for training in neurology and worked there for nearly 5 years in general neurology practice.
You have been at OEC during the entire pandemic. How has COVID-19 impacted the practice?
At first, it was a major transition setting up telehealth training our staff and assisting patients to become more comfortable. Over time as all of our equipment has been updated, our patients have become more used to telemedicine services. It is now an effective way to communicate and follow patients while minimizing their risk for exposure and the need for travel.
What are the pros and cons of telehealth?
For conditions like epilepsy, the most important factor is having a detailed history from the patient. Telemedicine has made it much easier for patients to provide this information and seek treatment. Epilepsy patients often have a limited ability to drive as well as transportation difficulties. For other conditions, however, when a physical assessment is very important such as Parkinson’s disease it can be difficult to further treat a patient when I am unable to accurately assess their physical status.
There is an art to medicine and patient care, and like everything new, telehealth problems exist. What have been some of your challenges, and how are you navigating through them?
The biggest challenge has been teaching patients how to communicate electronically when they have not done so in the past. Often, this requires flexibility from our office’s standpoint to help with situations such as audio and visual difficulties. This can be done by utilizing things like a combination of phone and electronic devices to simplify the process.
Telehealth creates an ample distance between provider and patient. Is it possible via telehealth for providers to maintain an emotional connection so important to patient care?
I believe it is possible to establish and maintain a relationship and emotional connection with my patients through telemedicine. People are often more comfortable and open in their own homes talking about the problems they are facing.
In my office, I decorate with items that are important to me and symbolize things that I care about. I think that by allowing people to see this side of me they can see me just as much of a person as a provider. As I see people in their own homes, I think this applies the same. When I see someone on their back porch or in their living room it helps me to see them like I am a guest in their home. In some ways, this makes me feel closer to the person and helps me understand what they are facing.
What is your message for epilepsy and seizures patients coping during COVID-19?
The best advice I can give people with seizures is just to be aware that we are all going through a lot of stress right now. This and getting out of our regular schedules for activities and sleep makes people are more vulnerable to a further recurrence of seizure. I encouraged everyone to be open and discuss his or her problems and feelings. Also, try your best to keep a regular schedule.