Profiles in Telehealth: An Urgent Care NP Takes the Leap into Telemedicine Full-Time

We interviewed Nurse Practitioner, Antonio A., to learn about his leap into practicing telemedicine full-time and how it's given him more flexibility to be involved in his son's life.

What’s your background? What did you do before practicing telemedicine?

I graduated from nursing school in December 2017 and began working as a family nurse practitioner in April 2018 once my license was issued. I sat for the boards in January 2018, but as any nurse practitioner would tell you, it takes a while to get your license issued. I had a very long road leading to where I am now as a family nurse practitioner with extensive experience in urgent care and experience in primary care. Initially, I joined the military in 2002, became a hospital corpsman, and served alongside Marines in the USS JFK. In the military, I became a paramedic. While going to school to become a nurse, I worked as an ER technician. Then, I worked as an ER nurse and explored a few other nursing specialty jobs, too, including ICU, flight nursing, and post-op recovery. I also served as a care manager doing telehealth for Florida Blue and Humana. I mostly worked in the ER, and I’ve always had a passion for emergency medicine. I am now working in telemedicine full-time, which provides me more than enough income and the freedom to work from anywhere.

What’s your life like outside of work?

I live in West Palm Beach, Florida, but originally, I’m from Miami, Florida. I’ve always been interested in computers, so I consider myself to be a tech nerd. I also love to travel, and it’s probably one of the main reasons I joined the Navy when I was 18. I’ve been able to travel to places like Bahrain, Dubai, Spain, Malta, and Germany, which I may not have been able to go to had it not been for my enlistment in the Navy. In addition to my Navy travels, my wife and I have traveled to multiple Caribbean islands, Mexico, and Nicaragua, and we have a few more on our bucket list. This April, we were supposed to go to Italy. My friend, who is now an officer in the Navy, was supposed to get stationed there this April, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to cancel our plans. We have a four-year-old d son who is turning five in July, and he is our world.

What brought you to telemedicine?

I first began working in telemedicine as a registered nurse for Florida Blue and Humana doing care management services for high-risk risk patients for two to three years. That was mostly telephonic, but it was my first exposure to telehealth. A few months after I was licensed in April 2018 as a nurse practitioner, I was approached by a startup that was looking to do telemedicine throughout the US, and one of their significant areas of engagement was Florida. Being the tech nerd that I am, I found it intriguing and jumped on board to do it as a side gig. They helped me get licensed in a few additional states like Nevada, Arizona, California, Texas, and New Mexico. In January 2020, I began doing telemedicine full-time because of the flexibility. A few events lead to this decision.

First, my son’s school put on events throughout the week, most of which I missed because I was working. The one event I attended, I was rushed and constantly looking at my watch because I was only given one hour off of work. Second, my wife and I decided to evacuate town during what seemed like a catastrophic hurricane. We had survived a hurricane before, and losing power for two weeks with a child was challenging. I had to work up until the Saturday before the hurricane was forecasted to make landfall here in Florida, and I was left with the options to either ride out the storm or get out of town at the last minute. My wife, in-laws, and son left to stay with family in Virginia on Thursday. It was challenging because I couldn’t just pack up and leave to be with my family. And lastly, last year I realized that I was making just as much money from my side gigs in telemedicine as I was from my full-time job in urgent care. I realized that if I put in full-time hours in telemedicine, I could have the flexibility to be more involved in my son’s life and freedom to work from anywhere. Having that freedom to choose when and where I work from is a fantastic feeling!

What’s your recent Wheel Moment of Freedom?

I was supposed to have that moment this year in March. I was going to attend my best friend’s graduation in California. In the past, I had to miss out on a lot of my friends' events and because they are in the military, the events could be anywhere. This would mean taking a few days off from work and limiting my PTO for traveling with my family. That moment never came because things started to get worse with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, my wife and I were able to breathe a sigh of relief because I didn’t have to put my wife, who is on Humira, at risk for contracting COVID-19 because I was working in telemedicine. As COVID-19 took a turn for the worse in March, that was the moment I realized how free I was to not have to go into an office and also not risk exposing myself and my family.

What do you think the future of healthcare holds?

I feel telemedicine is going to make such a massive difference in healthcare and medicine. Previously, we saw the light shining through the trees with rural medicine taking advantage of telemedicine.

Now, we’re seeing how telemedicine can be utilized for more than just minor things like medication refills. Telemedicine allows providers to create a more private environment to discuss issues that may be difficult, like erectile dysfunction or urinary tract infections. most impactful change in healthcare, not just in the present but for the years to come, too.

With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are realizing that telemedicine is more than just a simple tool for small problems, and instead is a sophisticated all-purpose approach that can help with big problems like pandemics.

Thanks, Antonio, for being an essential member of the #WheelCareTeam!

Interested in joining us? Sign up to learn more about working in telehealth with Wheel. We need clinicians more than ever during the COVID-19 national crisis.

Learn more about provider experiences in our previous spotlight interviews with a nurse practitioner who believes virtual care improves access, a nurse practitioner finding that virtual care enables quality patient time, and a nurse practitioner homeschooling while caring for patients.