In a world of modern medicine, nurse practitioner Emily Allina is taking a step back in time. In a throwback to the medical days of yore, she has found a niche in her field as a practitioner who makes house calls.
Last year, when Allina was visiting friends in North Lake Tahoe while in town for a medical conference, the pull she’d already been feeling to make some life changes grew stronger. Her friends suggested checking out the area and then trying to figure out her next move.
“I had lived in San Diego for 19 years, working a variety of different jobs there and was just ready for a bit of a lifestyle change,” she told Moonshine Ink.
Having spent 14 years as an emergency room nurse, and another three in urgent/primary care, Allina was ready for a change of pace. So, when she visited friends in Incline Village, she decided to do a little legwork between medical presentations and ski runs. She found that medical resources in Incline and around the Tahoe Basin could sometimes be limited, particularly on the weekends when there tends to be higher demand due to sports-related injuries and an increase in the number of people in the area on account of the tourist population.
“I was considering the next stage of my career and it seemed like this would be a good area where I could fill some holes or assist with the services that are already available for people,” Allina said. “There’s a unique population here. There’s a wide variety of ages and also, with the weather, people needing services at certain times that they can’t get to if the passes are closed.”
Allina decided to give it a try and moved to Incline in September. It wasn’t long before people caught wind of her new venture, especially with friends in the area who were happy to spread the word, and the response she’s received has been nothing but positive.
The goal, she says, is not to replace existing care providers that people already have, but instead to become part of those patients’ care team.
“I encourage people to keep, obviously, the specialists that they work with and their primary care providers because it’s really important to get those annual screening exams, age-based studies, laboratory studies, which I can help facilitate, and I can be part of the care team,” she said. “Part of what I do is to try and fill those holes … I’ve had people mention that they’ve had difficulty getting in [to see physicians] just because of the limited number of providers in the area.”
As a nurse practitioner, Allina can see patients for common ailments like strep throat, sinus infections, dehydration, skin abscesses, minor injuries, urinary tract infections, Covid-19 testing, and much more. She can even conduct sports physicals, prescribe medications, and, if necessary, order bloodwork to get to the bottom of what’s ailing someone, with the caveat that the patient will follow-up with his or her primary care physician or specialist.
One of the advantages of having a nurse practitioner who makes house calls is that Allina can go to patients in a time and a space that’s convenient for them — such as when a parent has a child who falls ill, and the parent doesn’t want to drag the entire family out to an office visit. This also rings true with elderly patients, who might not have easy access to transportation or be comfortable driving in wintry conditions. At the least, Allina can go to them, conduct an initial evaluation, even coordinate with family if they do need to go be seen elsewhere or have a more thorough exam and a higher level of care. And of course, there are some folks who may be considered at high risk of contracting Covid-19 and are hesitant to be seen in a medical office environment.
“People are always more comfortable in a familiar place — white coat syndrome, nervousness in an office, is always a real thing,” Allina noted. “People forget things they want to talk about. They don’t remember the questions they want to ask, or they think of things when they get home. In their home, it’s a more familiar environment, so the conversation flows a little bit more easily. They can pick a spot that’s comfortable for them. Anxiety is less. I am not distracted by staff asking questions or the phone ringing or other clients. It’s a very personalized one-on-one experience … people really like the feeling of being your, having your undivided attention.”
Learn more about the services Allina offers at highsierrahousecalls.com.