Payal Sharma MSN, RN, FNP-BC, CBN is a Nurse Practitioner working in General Surgery at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine. Sharma has published several articles in Bariatric Times, a peer-reviewed journal, and is also a reviewer for Obesity Surgery Journal. She is pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree at Yale University. Her DNP project is focused on reducing early readmission rates, particularly in the bariatric population. She is a Family Nurse Practitioner who transitioned into Surgery after her move to New York City. Sharma helped launch the weight loss program at Mount Sinai Downtown. Sharma is a Certified Bariatric Nurse and is an active member of the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. She is very involved in professional organizations and committees.

As a result of Covid-19 crisis, Sharma’s workflow changed tremendously. She would normally have 40-50 office visits on a given clinic day but now, all in-office visits have been cancelled. Since Sharma’s division performs a high volume of elective surgeries, she has been working remotely. Sharma is constantly challenged to find ways to address her patient’s medical needs using telehealth technologies. Since much of her focus during her doctoral studies has been on reducing readmissions, she has been trying to identify strategies to provide high quality and safe care to her patients while keeping them out of the hospital. “I also start appointments by asking patients how they are coping with COVID-19. This open-ended question has led to a lot of discussion which patients have found therapeutic. Just by lending a listening ear, I am often able to make a difference. Navigating through these uncharted waters together has led to creating an even stronger bond with patients”, said Sharma. Sharma also offers pet therapy during her video visits to comfort her patients. 

Obesity seems to place people at greater risk for complications from COVID-19. The crisis and need for isolation have also led many to rely on processed and canned foods. Sharma has been finding creative ways to help her bariatric patients cope with COVID-19 and has found that patients who are recovering from weight loss surgery are anxious about reverting to previous eating habits. Sharma has been recommending that her patients closely follow up with the dietitian, make frequent rounds around their home or apartments during the day as a form of exercise, buy healthy groceries, and keep up with fluid intake to avoid dehydration. For those patients who are eagerly waiting for weight loss surgery, she has been coaching them and encouraging them to continue practicing positive behavior modifications. Sharma has also had to call patients to inform them of their positive test results which means further delaying their surgeries that they have been long awaiting.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has truly demonstrated the value and versatility that nursing brings to the healthcare system” said Sharma. Sharma points out that while she is working remotely, some of her nursing colleagues have been redeployed to areas such as the ED, ICU, and primary care centers. Many of these nurses were deployed to areas they did not previously have training or have not worked in for years. As the restrictions are loosening, Sharma has played an important role in helping to identify what order surgical patients should have surgery. All patients are now required to have COVID testing prior to surgery. The return to normal services will be gradual and patients will be triaged appropriately.