It is very difficult for members to work on improving their physical health if they are depressed,
under a lot of stress or suffering from anxiety. Taking care of their
mental health is the priority.

Connecting to Care Changes Lives Series

In the Connecting to Care Changes Lives series, Uprise Health behavioral health coaches and clinicians are exploring their role in creating a world where mental and physical healthcare is delivered with skill, patience, kindness and empathy. Innovation in care and digital resources are highlighted as Uprise Health develops new ways to access care and provide services.

In the first of the series, we introduced a few of our behavioral and mental health coaches and clinicians, who shared tips for how to start the new year with healthy habits. In the second installment, Dr. Darryl Huels shared his insights as a leader in managing our clinical care team and views on the future of mental health care.

In this piece, our third blog in the series, we had the opportunity to speak with the Nurse Team Leader at Uprise Health, Pedro Gago. Pedro Gago has worked with the nurses at Uprise Health for 8 years. He trains new nurses and provides ongoing supervision and support of his fellow nurses. He holds an ADN  in Nursing from Indian River State College in Fort Pierce, Florida. He has been in the field of nursing for 14 years, including emergency nursing, trauma nursing and health education.

Pedro shares his insights as a leader in educating our members regarding chronic condition management. A chronic condition (also referred to as chronic disease) is any condition that lasts for at least a year, can impact daily activities and requires ongoing medical care. Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, kidney disease and asthma are all examples of chronic conditions. Chronic diseases have an emotional and behavioral health dimension. Often psychological, social, and cultural issues arise in individuals with a chronic condition. Individuals with a chronic condition may need to adjust their aspirations, lifestyle, and employment if their disease isn’t well managed.

A collaborative behavioral health care approach that includes both mental and physical health care can improve overall health. Research has shown that treating mental health issues and chronic illness together can help people better manage both. Pedro’s work with our members is significant because during his screening he may identify mental health issues that would otherwise go unnoticed and untreated and could get in the way of properly managing their disease. His screening, support, and education improve health outcomes.

What’s your role at Uprise Health?

“I am the nurse team leader. I share updates with the team, I am available to answer questions that the nurses and coaches might have plus I also work directly with members in providing education to help them manage their chronic conditions and behavioral coaching to improve their lifestyle. We complete an assessment with members, and we focus on their physical and mental health during the call. I help train new nurses that join our team and I sometimes lead our weekly zoom meetings because it’s important for us to maintain contact with the staff and answer any questions they might have since we work remotely.”

What makes you passionate about what you do?

“There are many things that I do that make me passionate about my role here at Uprise Health. I love it when members apply the information and teaching that I share and achieve their health goals! Losing weight, quitting smoking, improving their lab results, and managing their chronic conditions better are big achievements for them and the nurses feel a big sense of accomplishment to have been an integral part of that. It’s always a great feeling when a member tells me that this health program made a big difference in their lives.

For example, when a member has high blood sugar, this can be detected by an elevated A1C level. An A1C level of 5.7% or less is considered healthy. If a member’s level is 10%, I teach them that this is a dangerous condition that puts them at risk of kidney failure, stroke, nerve damage, blindness, and heart attack. I do not judge them or make them feel bad, I am there to support and teach them positive small steps to improve it.

After several months of working with them, those small steps can result in big changes. When they report their A1C level is below 7% or their blood pressure becomes well managed, or they are losing weight and feeling much better and happier, I am proud of them and myself for being part of a positive health outcome. These milestones improve their health and can change their lives mentally and physically!”

What does your day to day look like?

“Before the first call with a member in our program, I review the labs that we receive from our members’ provider. During the year the different funds we work with have deadlines for their members to complete a program, so I must review the labs and determine if they need an appointment with a nurse due to blood tests or body measurements that are considered out of a healthy range for that particular test. We are also looking for identification of a chronic condition based on medication information.

Our outreach to members is initially rooted in improving their physical health and managing a chronic condition. It is very difficult for members to work on improving their physical health if they are depressed, under a lot of stress or suffering from anxiety. Taking care of their mental health is the priority. When appropriate, we can focus on making changes and setting goals for improving their physical health challenges.

Working as a nurse health advocate also taught me how to approach mental health in a non-judgmental way to make the members as comfortable as possible to talk about what is going on in their lives.  Our neutral but caring connection is vital to the patient’s willingness to receive help.

Some of the members I interact with are new, some have been in the program with us for several months and some are continuing with us from previous years. Most of the members are in the chronic condition management program and others are working with a Nurse Health Advocate or Certified Wellness Coach for weight loss, stress management or healthy eating to name a few.”

How has your work contributed to how you think about mental health?

“I’ve been educating and coaching members for many years, and it has helped me focus even more on mental health during their appointments and take the time to ask questions beyond the first interaction. I ask clinically validated questions to screen for depression or mental health issues. We are looking for specific and non-specific symptoms and risk factors. Taking the time to really engage with them, listen and connect can be critical to get them the appropriate help when needed.”

What is your vision for the future of mental health care?

“In my opinion, teletherapy and digital therapy is and will continue to be a big part of mental health care. Especially at the onset of the pandemic, people were unable to see their doctors so teletherapy really helped provide the service needed for individuals that needed treatment. Digital and teletherapy can also solve the problem of shortage of therapists in a specific state or city. The member no longer needs to drive an hour to see their therapist, they can have a virtual appointment instead. The comfort and convenience are something people want to continue having post pandemic.”

With the skills you’ve learned on the job, and the experiences you’ve had in it, what is one thing you would recommend family, friends and everyone incorporate into their daily routine for optimized mental health?

“I usually recommend members, family, and friends to stay active and if possible, to start your day with some type of physical activity. Be it a short walk before work, a workout at the gym or any other type of activity in the morning. In my opinion, this sets you up for success to start your day in a healthy and positive way plus you feel better. It’s not always possible to accomplish this goal daily, but the main thing is to make it a priority and any day you do it is better than not at all. As Tony Robbins stated, ‘motion creates emotion.’ Changing your physiology means changing your mental state and feeling better mentally and physically.”

Our behavioral health professionals are the heartbeat of Uprise Health and help people discover how to be the best mentally and physically. We track progress and adapt to individual’s changing needs. Uprise Health guides people to meet personal goals and assists through any difficulties a person may encounter during their health journey. We will have a fourth installment of our Connecting to Care Changes Lives series coming soon, and you can learn more about Uprise Health’s mental and behavioral health solutions.