AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)– Gale Trauco is a registered oncology nurse and founder and CEO of Pharmakon, LLC.
She has spent four decades helping patients navigate the red tape of medical care and was recently honored with the Top 100 Women to Know in North America Award. Gail travels around the country to help patients, medical professionals and drug companies get on the same page. And her reputation is that of a fierce advocate for patients’ rights.
She’s talking with us today about mobile nursing.
“I’ll tell you, the pandemic was probably the best thing that ever happened to my business. I don’t know how many other business owners have walked away with positive business experiences, but I launched an entire new division of, I already own a clinical trials company running clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies, but I launched a mobile nursing company.”
Mobile nursing is not the same as home health or hospice, it’s something different.
“We only hire registered nurses. The nurses travel with iPads, mobile hotspots, centrifuges to spin down labs. They go out to the patient’s home if they’re gonna do a telemedicine visit, they help that patient log into the portal. Two reasons telemedicine is hard for patients, computer illiteracy and lack of internet service. So when that nurse shows up at the door and if they’re in a remote area or a place that’s dangerous, for example, the French Quarter of New Orleans, we have a contract with law enforcement agencies and an off duty law enforcement officer may go out with that nurse as well to ensure their safety. So you never know what you’re gonna walk into in a patient’s home.
“And the other things that we’re doing that patients will often need to go to their doctor’s office for or to have labs drawn, chemistry, hematology, urinalysis. Nurses got a portable centrifuge, we have a courier service that meets that nurse at a designated pickup point. The labs either go back to their local hospital or doctor’s office for analysis, or they may be if they’re for a pharmaceutical clinical trial, going to a central lab, so that courier’s going to the airport to UPS or FedEx or whoever their designated shipper is. So all these things can be done, I’d say at somebody’s kitchen table. ‘Cause you know in the South, our lives have been built around that family unit at the kitchen table. This is so great for oncology patients, for patients with rare disease, for working moms that have children in pediatric clinical trials, they can’t keep taking off work to go for clinical trial visits. And yes, those are built into scientifically designed clinical trial protocols, but the pharmaceutical industry finally got smart. They need to reach patients in rural and marginalized communities to meet inclusion and diversity. Medicine is not patient focused anymore, it’s all about the metrics, Jennie, it’s all about the money. And the pharmaceutical industry for the last four or five years has been on a big, they’re ready to embrace inclusion and diversity. And so when I’m out doing sales calls, I’m like, you could reach patients in rural Wyoming. You can reach patients between Cancer Alley New Orleans, from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Those patients are very afraid of clinical trials. I’ll go down and meet with the pastors at their churches to talk about really great oncology studies ’cause there’s lots of cancer, for example, in that region of the United States. So medicine is changing. But I think as women and as a nurse, it’s part of my job to make sure that this message reaches people. So mobile nursing is a pivot, most of the nurses work in the region that they live in. They need to be licensed to draw bloods and they need to be certified. And a lot of people that are phlebotomists, for example, won’t apply for those jobs. Well, it requires a registered nurse’s skill level to go out because they may be asked to give an IV, administration of something and that can be shipped from a pharmacy. Like CVS has a big program where they ship it to the patient’s home in a lockbox when that nurse is coming, if they need to get a steroid infusion. And that can be done in the patient’s home at the kitchen table, in the living room.“
Something else that gets Trauco fired up is the discrimination she sees against Southern women. A Southerner herself, she’s from Foggy Bottom, NC, she believes many people think Southern women with a drawl are just not so smart.
“I’ve been a nurse 45 years. And hands-on patient care for many of those early years. When I open my mouth as a Southerner… it’s a hard sell until they realize I know what I’m talking about. With Food and Drug Administration, with the conduct of clinical trials, I’m considered a healthcare thought leader. I have reporters come to me at least once a month wanting quotes for articles in “Forbes”, “Inc.’ magazine.
“I tell people, this is my Southern drawl. I’m well educated, I’m an expert at what I do. Maybe I’m not the vendor for you if you don’t like the way I talk, ’cause it’s not gonna change. So it’s owning our confidence and positioning yourself as that thought leader. You got to put in the work to get where you’re going.”