Pharmaxo Healthcare has a team of virtual nurses based at the company’s office. The team supports patients across the UK who are going through treatment for migraines, osteoporosis, cancer, and dermatological, gastrointestinal, neurological and rheumatological diseases.

The role of a virtual nurse is an important one, as each patient is unique, and brings along a different set of needs and questions.

The role of a virtual nurse

Virtual appointments allow nurses to train patients to administer their own drugs, via a secure, patient-friendly and easy-to-use video calling app. The video format provides non-verbal interaction and means that patients see a reassuring and friendly face rather than just hear a voice on the line, which is especially helpful for nervous patients.

For some patients, taking in all the information about their condition and its treatment can be hard when it’s first explained by their doctor. They can also find the information in the medication package insert worrying. The virtual nurse can help by explaining why the patient has been prescribed the medication, how it works, and what any side effects are likely to be. They can also call in someone from the pharmacy team to answer any further questions or talk about contraindications. This gives the patient the information they need to decide whether they will go ahead with the treatment or not.

The nurse can watch the patient prepare and inject the drug, and then talk through when and how often to take the drug, how to store it and what precautions to take with travel. The nurse also remains available after the process is completed so that the patient can report any immediate side effects or ask questions, providing the patient with an extra layer of support, and allowing the nurse to report any adverse drug reactions to the patient’s doctor and to the drug company. Anaphylaxis is very rare, but by staying on the call, the nurse can call an ambulance if necessary.

The virtual nurse role is primarily a patient training role, but Pharmaxo Healthcare’s nurses can also ensure that patients have had all the tests that they need, discuss any new conditions or symptoms, and provide advice such as the need to wear sunscreen or avoid infections with certain medications.

Some patients are sceptical about the idea of a virtual process, but for most it ends up being a preferred approach – the patients leave the call happy, reassured and feeling more positive. Face-to-face appointments are still available, however, for the patients who would prefer them, or who find that they can’t use the technology.

The nurses are kept updated on the latest information on the medications by Pharmaxo’s pharmacy team. As well as supporting patients, the virtual nurse team can also help other people in the Pharmaxo team, by answering medical questions and liaising with hospitals.

Benefits of virtual nursing

Pharmaxo Heathcare’s virtual nurse appointments, which are available during the day and evening, and on Saturdays, mean that patients can fit sessions around their work, family and other commitments. Because they have access to the video training via a secure link, patients can access it from anywhere. Virtual nurses do not need to spend as much time travelling, so they can see up to six or seven patients a day.

The flexibility of a virtual appointment means that patients can take their time, and the training can be repeated as necessary. Patients can also have family members with them on the call, which is particularly useful when people are anxious about self-administering drugs, need additional language support, or just want someone there to provide emotional or practical backup. In situations where a family member is translating, the Pharmaxo Healthcare virtual nurse will ensure that the patient remains at the centre of the call, that they understand what drug they are taking and why, and that they are providing genuine consent.

Being able to see the patient allows the virtual nurse to see if the patient is getting upset or anxious about the process, and means that the nurse can take the pressure off and give the patient time to discuss their concerns, and choose whether they do want to go ahead with the treatment, or with self-administration.

Training from Pharmaxo Healthcare’s nursing team, whether virtually or face-to-face, empowers patients and allows them to take control of their own treatment.

Meet one of Pharmaxo Healthcare’s virtual nurses

Elizabeth Cunliffe has been a qualified nurse for 31 years. She has many years of experience working within the NHS as a district nurse, health visitor and public health nurse. She also carried out medical screening for Army recruitment teams, producing very detailed reports on mental and physical health.

She joined Pharmaxo in October 2022, starting in occupational health and wellbeing and then moving to join the team of virtual nurses.

“I’ve learned a lot since I joined Pharmaxo. I enjoy being part of the virtual nursing team, and the wider nursing team that includes the community nurses.”