Profiles in Telehealth: Flight Nurse Turned FNP Says Virtual Care is Life Changing

Saifuddin T., a nurse practitioner specializing in Family Practice, Weight Management, and Occupational Health, started his career as a mental health counselor, then spent 15 years as an international flight nurse before becoming an FNP. He is passionate about metabolism and how it affects our ability to manage health, prevent future illness, and prevent sequelae from existing chronic disease processes. Also a self-professed flight and avian intelligence nerd, he shares a unique perspective on the future of healthcare.

What's your professional story?

My entry into the healthcare profession started when Prozac was first introduced, Stephen Hawking published A Brief History of Time, and the first worm virus was distributed across the Internet in 1988. Then ten years ago I began my life's best work as a nurse practitioner.

I started my career as a mental health counselor providing group and individual therapy for psychiatric inpatients. Realizing I needed further education, I returned to the University of Illinois for a BSN, and then began working as an RN in Emergency Medicine, ICU, and School Based Health. My journey eventually took me to The George Washington University to practice in clinical research. One of the best parts of my position with GWU involved international air transport for critically ill patients. In this capacity, I was able to travel the world. Fifteen years later, I decided it was time for more formal training and education and I returned to graduate school.

Today I'm studying for certification in Obesity and Weight Management through the ABOM. Given the alarming global rise in obesity, I firmly believe primary care clinicians need to be well versed in this field. We are the frontline gatekeepers of health. We must be educated and well informed to help combat the growing obesity epidemic. Because of my conviction in continuing education, I've plunged into the deep end of the pool and started doctoral work in education with a focus on critical content pedagogy related to global health care institutions and issues of power in the classroom. I hope to use my work to foster agency and train future health care learners.

What's your life like outside of work?

When I'm not evaluating people for ASCVD risk and managing diabetes, I work in my little southern California garden, train and play with my Yorkie, and trek everywhere possible. I've had the fortune to travel and photograph a small portion of this unbelievable planet. I'm a flight simulator nerd and an avid reader, and I love books about bird and simian intelligence. My most recent book recommendation is Homo Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind, by Yuval Noah Harari - one of the world's most brilliant thinkers.

What brought you to virtual care?

I developed and managed a remote virtual care program in 2010 when the word "telemedicine" was still a novel idea, so I had some exposure to telehealth prior to joining Wheel. I decided to work remotely during the COVID pandemic to create a better work-life balance and pay closer attention to my health and well being. There was a learning curve with new technology, vocabulary, and my greatest challenge, working alone. I love my short 2 minute commute to work and the amount of flexibility I have to manage my life. The best part about telehealth is the people that make the whole process work - our most valuable infrastructure exists in the humans that make everything happen at Wheel.

What's it like to work with Wheel?

Working for Wheel has been life-changing: I have full practice and schedule autonomy, access to valuable free continuing education, and new skills in remote patient health management. My health has drastically improved, my expenses have decreased, and I can truly work to have a life. Anyone considering work with Wheel should not hesitate. This is the time to join a movement and possible paradigm shift in healthcare. I robustly recommend Wheel as a partner in employment, healthcare, and business.

What do you think the future of healthcare holds?

The future of healthcare delivery is definitely in the area of remote health. Virtually every discipline in medicine, nursing, and healthcare business is utilizing remote telemedicine. The development of artificial intelligence and remote health brings questions of utility: Will we still need as many clinicians in the future? How best will we deliver care when we can't fully physically evaluate our patients? What circumstances will necessitate in-person visits and how will we define these parameters? Further research and study is clearly needed, but it's quite obvious the future has arrived and we are a part of the change. We would be best advised to learn how to travel with the wind and not oppose its force.

Thank you, Saifuddin, for sharing your unique perspective and a book recommendation! Passionate, intelligent clinicians make the best "frontline gatekeepers of health."

For more check out our previous care team spotlights from an acute care NP who says virtual care is a game-changer, third-generation NP who uses flexible hours to support refugees, and a NP's journey from candy striper to virtual care.

Interested in joining a team of virtual care clinicians? Learn about working in telehealth with Wheel.