Iris clinicians are at the heart of what makes our organization such a special place to work. That’s why we’re turning the spotlight on the amazing work they’re doing every day. This month, we’re sitting down to talk with Dale McQueeney.
Q. How did you find Iris and decide you wanted to be an Iris provider?
A: I worked at a residential treatment center that had grown and changed a lot in the three years I was there. I loved my job, and it’s my passion to work with those who have substance use disorders, but I was getting a little burned out due to the hours. I always thought the only way I would leave my job would be to work in telehealth. I saw an ad for Iris, did a little research, reached out, and started the interview process. I learned a lot about Iris throughout the interviews, which were rigorous but fantastic. I was impressed with their commitment to finding the best providers and was honored when they wanted to hire me.
At the time, I ended up getting a promotion at the rehab center and decided to stay there. However, many months later, more shifts at the organization led me to decide I was finally ready to make a change. It was important to me to continue working with those with substance use disorders, and Iris was diligent about finding the right placement for me where I could continue doing that work. A really unique part of Iris’s approach is the job matching process. Iris holds a meet and greet with the Clinical Operations Manager, the provider, and the clinic. Everyone meets and discovers whether or not they’ll be a good fit. I couldn’t be happier with where they placed me.
Q. What does a typical day as an Iris Telehealth provider look like for you?
A: I live in rural Maine and work with a Community Mental Health Center in rural eastern Oregon. My primary focus is treating those with dual diagnoses and prescribing medication for addiction treatment (MAT), such as Suboxone (buprenorphine) and Vivitrol. I now serve as the Associate Medical Director for Substance Use Disorders at my clinic. My day is primarily filled with follow-up appointments and some new evaluations, usually for MAT. On Wednesdays, we have team meetings for the Crisis, SUD, Medical, and Adult teams.
Q. What do you love about being a telepsychiatry provider?
A: I love everything about being a telepsychiatry provider! We’re working to eliminate barriers to quality care, and it’s great that I can provide care from the other side of the country. In terms of my passion, I can reach those with opioid use disorders and potentially save lives with Suboxone or Buprenorphine. On a personal note, my commute is across the hallway in my house, much quicker than the hour and 15-minutes each way I used to drive. This lack of a commute allows me more time for “life.” I can relax and exercise in the morning instead of driving. In between patients, I can put in a load of laundry. The pace of life while working remotely is much slower and calmer, even on the busiest days.
Q. How do you foster connection with patients virtually?
A: The same way that I fostered connections with patients when I was seeing them in person — by getting to know them as people and asking about their lives, not just their medications. In my notes, I document the details so I can check in on what is going on with their families, pets, or events in their lives. Knowing about those details helps make for a richer connection, regardless of how far apart we are physically.
Q. As a healthcare professional, how do you manage work-life balance?
A: Work-life balance was the major reason I decided to start working for Iris. Maintaining a work-life balance makes me a better provider and more available to my patients when I am working. No one wants a burned-out provider. I’ve experienced burnout in the past, so I make sure to take time for family and self-care, including exercise. Even though it can sometimes be a temptation, I try hard not to check my email when I’m not at work. If it’s urgent, I know my Medical Assistant will contact me. Boundaries are so important, and Iris and the clinic I’m placed with really respect them.
Q. What are your biggest learnings from your time at Iris?
A: My biggest learning from my time with Iris is that working from home is not isolating. I decided to work remotely before the pandemic, and the week I started my new placement, all the employees at the organization went remote as well. During my transition to work from home, I never felt isolated – and that’s in large part due to the massive support from Iris. IT and my Clinical Operations Manager are always there for me if I need them. HR and payroll are very responsive. I’ve also developed close relationships with the staff at my clinic and have an incredible Medical Assistant. Even though I am an Iris employee, I really feel a part of the team at the clinic and am truly embedded there.
Q. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: The most rewarding part is seeing patients reduce use or achieve and maintain abstinence from substances. They literally change and save their own lives by doing so. Sometimes it’s sporadic, but I’ve seen some dramatic changes. Getting to be a small part of that is such a gift and incredibly rewarding.
Q. What do you love about working with Iris?
A: I love everything about working with Iris! Iris’s culture and values make it a really special place to work. The employees truly live the values, and everyone is so nice! From the very beginning, my Clinical Hiring Manager was so helpful and patient in answering all my questions. Then, there was real care taken to make a good match between my clinic and me, and my Clinical Operations Manager helped ensure that our connection was smooth and strong. The credentialing team was fantastic and helped me get licensed in Oregon. I just gave them my information and signature, and they made it happen! The support from IT, HR, and payroll is wonderful, and Iris’s Medical Director and Chief Medical Officer are excellent resources if needed. I couldn’t ask for better support!
Q. Why do you think telepsychiatry is important to the future of mental healthcare?
A: I think telepsychiatry is the future of mental health care because it improves access and reduces barriers. We were already heading in this direction, but the pandemic has increased acceptance and comfortability with this care delivery method. From my own experience, I know that patients really like it. I’ve worked both in-person and remotely, and I see no difference between these forms of delivery. I don’t treat my patients differently whether I am sitting in the same room with them or not, but because of the technology, I can be in rural Maine treating a patient in rural Oregon or wherever there’s a need. It’s amazing!
At Iris, we believe our providers should be respected, valued, and applauded for the work they do, and we couldn’t be more proud to say, “thank you” to our very own Dale McQueeney. If you’d like to learn more about working for Iris Telehealth, contact us today.