When she isn’t taking care of Nurx patients, Nurse Practitioner Joni Gunzburger, MSN, FNP-C can be found spinning, doing yoga or — more often — taking care of her 4- and 6-year-old daughters and trying to find delicious but healthy recipes for meals that everyone in the house will actually eat. “I try to set aside dedicated time to care for myself and role model that behavior for my girls,” says Joni. “But, honestly, parenting them is my favorite thing I do outside of work. It is so rewarding to watch them grow!” Home base is Arlington, VA, but she’s also lived in England, Jordan and Japan.
A fun fact about Joni: She worked as a park ranger for a while, but gave it up to become a nurse practitioner to provide care for people who lack access. She loves working in telemedicine because it allows her to take the time she needs to work with patients in depth on a specific medical need, rather than having a brief office visit that must cover multiple concerns, and it lets her expand her reach farther than she could in a single local clinic. Here, Joni shares what she wants every Nurx patient to know about their health:
What do you wish every patient knew?
I wish for patients to always remember that they are unique and so are their bodies. We often hear patients have healthcare preferences based on what they read via online reviews or heard from friends or family. I wish patients knew that their experience with a medication or treatment will likely be different from the experience of their friends, family, or strangers from the internet. It is important to be informed and ask questions while collaborating with your provider to find the best fit for your specific needs and body!
What is a birth control myth you’d like to debunk?
It causes weight gain! Truth: Research has shown that most birth control options are not associated with weight gain and there are generally other factors at play if weight gain occurs. Only the Depo Provera shot has been associated with weight gain and only in a modest percentage of patients.
Also, the myth that “birth control doesn’t work.” Truth: Birth control is very effective. With perfect use, most types of birth control are close to 100% effective. With typical use (an occasional missed or late pill…because, hey, who’s perfect??!!), birth control is still more than 90% effective. Those are much better odds of preventing an unintended pregnancy than not using birth control at all!
What’s a PrEP myth you wish would go away?
It causes people to sleep around! I have the privilege of prescribing PrEP to help keep patients safe. Patients who are taking PrEP to prevent contracting HIV are no different from those taking birth control to prevent pregnancy – they are making a responsible choice to keep themselves safe while having a healthy sex life and the stigma surrounding these things is completely unwarranted. Sexual preference and activity varies from person to person and that is okay. Being safe while enjoying a healthy sex life is never a bad thing.
What’s something that patients are embarrassed about, but shouldn’t be?
Talking openly about sex or their personal lives with their healthcare provider. Sex is a natural part of life and is something that should be enjoyable rather than shameful. It’s important for your healthcare provider to know who you have sex with (men/women/both) and the types of sex you have. Trust me when I say we will not judge you—we need this information to help recommend the care that is best suited for your specific needs!
People are often also uncomfortable letting us know if they are in an unsafe relationship or situation. This can happen to anyone and is not your fault or something to be ashamed of. There are resources for you and we want to help, but can’t if we don’t know. If you need our help, please let us know.
What do you think patients worry too much about?
Many patients worry too much about side effects that were experienced by friends or family members or those reported in online reviews. Every person is unique and their response to medication is also. It’s best not to use the experiences of others to make your own healthcare decisions. A treatment that didn’t work well for someone else may actually be a great fit for you and the only way to know for sure is to try it. It’s always helpful to keep in mind that we’re happy to chat through questions or to help you switch to another medication if something doesn’t work well for you.
What do you think patients worry too little about?
Serious adverse events that can occur with birth control. The risk is ultimately very low and I don’t want patients to dwell on these, and pregnancy generally puts patients at a higher risk of similar adverse events (like blood clots). However, if a medical provider lets you know that it is not safe to use a particular type of birth control due to a safety risk, patients should take this seriously. We would never create a barrier for patients to access their preferred birth control if the risk to them wasn’t significant. We know it can be frustrating, but are ultimately doing our best to keep you safe and healthy.
What is something important people can do to take care of their sexual health?
An important but very simple thing to do is to know your STI status. With home testing kits, it has become even easier to know your status. If you’re sexually active, having routine STI testing is always a good idea, even if you don’t have symptoms. Many patients who test positive for STIs do not have any symptoms. Treating STIs early can prevent you from spreading them to new partners, as well as decrease your risk of developing any related complications. Most STIs are very easily treated if you’re aware you have them.
What are the types of things patients tell you through Nurx that they are too scared or shy to tell an in-person provider?
So many things!! I hear a lot more details about specific side effects of medications (itching, discharge changes, odors, vaginal dryness), worries about sex or birth control, disclosures about higher risk sex practices, and often just simple questions that patients worry “sound dumb” (can the NuvaRing fall out? Can my partner feel it? Where does it go once it’s inserted? Wait- can I get pregnant on my placebo week?). Trust me—providers are so happy when you tell us all the details and ask us all the questions. This makes it much easier for us to help you stay safe and healthy. I love being a medical provider at Nurx, because patients tell me so much more than they ever do when we’re face to face.
What do you wish more people knew about telemedicine?
Telemedicine is a very safe and effective way to receive care. The medical providers working in telemedicine have the same types of training and experience as those you see in a medical office, we just provide care in a different setting. It’s important to realize that we take your health and safety just as seriously as we would in a physical office, so we often message patients with questions about their medical history or the type of care they’re seeking. We aim to provide you with a treatment that is best for unique needs, while also keeping you safe, and this often requires us to ask additional questions!
This blog provides information about telemedicine, health and related subjects. The blog content and any linked materials herein are not intended to be, and should not be construed as a substitute for, medical or healthcare advice, diagnosis or treatment. Any reader or person with a medical concern should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other healthcare provider. This blog is provided purely for informational purposes. The views expressed herein are not sponsored by and do not represent the opinions of Nurx™.