On the Front Lines: A Ph.D. Nursing Student on Working Seven Days a Week Directing a Telemedicine Group in Queens

May 11, 2020

Nursing Ph.D. student Scott Kaye spoke to The Graduate Center about his experience working tirelessly, yet at a distance, with patients during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ph.D. student Scott Kaye (Photo courtesy of Kaye)
Ph.D. student Scott Kaye (Photo courtesy of Kaye)

Scott Kaye, a Ph.D. student in Nursing at The Graduate Center, is also the clinical director of a NewYork-Presbyterian Medical Group based in Queens. When the coronavirus pandemic reached New York, his clinic turned into a telemedicine operation — and, since then, Kaye has worked all day, every day, at the goal of keeping patients out of the borough’s overcrowded hospitals.

Kaye recently spoke to The Graduate Center about his experience working tirelessly, yet at a distance, with patients:

Graduate Center: What is the role of telemedicine during this crisis?

Kaye: I head a team that manages patients remotely through telemedicine and telehealth. Telemedicine was kind of instituted overnight. The template that we follow is: initially [patients] are seen by one of our physicians; the nurses then follow up by phone. I have an extraordinarily good team. It helps that most of the team has worked in the emergency department before.

The greatest thing that we’ve been doing is keeping people out of the hospital. The hospital is so overwhelmed, and certainly at the beginning it was a great place for the “worried well” — people who knew someone who knew someone on Facebook who might have had it, and were worried they’re going to die. So we’re keeping them away from the ER. 

The other thing is that hospital volumes are so ridiculously high, and the waiting times are so long, that we try to help people out where we can — getting prescriptions, getting medication, getting monitoring equipment. Absolutely, if we realize that the patient is beyond our ability to manage, we send them to the ER, but we are able to keep the volume down to just the emergencies. So I think this is a huge success.

GC: What is your role once a patient is discharged from the hospital?

Kaye: The patient’s symptoms determine the frequency and duration of the nurse follow-up calls. So some patients get three follow-up calls a day, because we really, really need to look at them. With some people, it’s just a call a day for one week. Sometimes it's every other day as they get better. The nurses will assess the need and add to it as needed.

GC: How often do you work? And how are you getting through the day?

Kaye:  One way is a lot of coffee! Two: it’s a tremendous team. They’re working long, long days, through the most trying conditions, and it’s just been so positive. The effort is so well-received that it gives me the energy to go on.

I work seven days a week. I haven’t had days off since this started, but I can’t say I’m the only one.

GC: How has your training at The Graduate Center helped with your work?

Kaye: When I was asked why I wanted to do a Ph.D., one of the first things that came out is I wanted to learn to write better. And I learned over time that writing better comes from thinking more clearly, and once you learn to think clearly, you can articulate your thoughts better. So when you have a project that you’re learning how to take off the ground, you have to be able to communicate your thoughts very, very clearly, and I think that’s the most important thing in what I’m doing now.

GC: What are your thoughts on how this pandemic might resolve?

Kaye: Everybody wants to know when we’re going to return to normal, and I think what we have to understand is that normal has changed a little bit. Doesn’t mean we’re going to all stay in isolation forever, it just means that a lot of this stuff that we’ve been a little slow to embrace — telecommuting and telemedicine and distance learning and things like that — are going to become even more important.