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Dr. Narissa Joyner

When it comes to treating people with chronic illness, it’s personal for Dr. Narissa Joyner: not only does she have family members dealing with chronic conditions, but she also takes great pride in finding the right answers to her patients’ problems. The Sollis Assistant Medical Director gets real about how your relationship with your doctor is similar to other relationships, the best ways to advocate for yourself (too much information is better than not enough!), and what to remember above all else… be kind to yourself.
by Sollis Health

What inspired you to join Sollis?

I was inspired by the idea of treating patients in the acute setting while providing comprehensive individualized care. There have been many times where I felt I wanted to be able to dedicate more time with each patient during their moment of need; working at Sollis allows for that.

How does it feel to help someone with a chronic condition by diagnosing them and getting them the right treatment? Conversely, what does it feel like if you have trouble pinpointing the root of an issue?

There is a great sense of accomplishment when you are able to successfully guide someone in their path of healing. Finding a solution for someone that improves quality of life and minimizes suffering always feels like a win. Conversely, it is unsettling when I am unable to pinpoint the cause of a patient’s condition; there is a feeling of an unfinished puzzle needing to be completed.

Do you have any personal connection to chronic or invisible illness—either firsthand or via a loved one?

I have family members with chronic diseases: one aunt currently living with sickle-cell anemia, another aunt who unfortunately passed from ovarian cancer.

“A chronic condition may be a part of you, but it doesn’t have to define who you are…unless you want it to!”

What are the ways Sollis helps people who are struggling with a chronic condition?

Sollis offers the tools and expertise to help patients navigate the health system. We are aware that medical care is complex, and it can be overwhelming for patients to obtain care while dealing with an illness.

What about people who don’t have access to Sollis? How can they best advocate for themselves, especially in an emergency room?

For people who don’t have access to Sollis, having access to your physician or primary care team is paramount. Providing care is more seamless when able to speak with clinicians who are already familiar with the patient and case. During regular appointments, clarify ways the patient or another clinician can get in contact with the primary care team or physician when needed.

As someone who’s constantly talking to patients, can you speak a little about the most effective language they can use with their providers? What else can they do to help communicate—bring photos, journal entries, etc?

Providing pertinent documentation or information that may help guide care is extremely helpful. Giving too much information is better than withholding information. Also, providing contact information for any other providers involved in the care helps support a collaborative environment, especially when dealing with more chronic issues.

“It is unsettling when I am unable to pinpoint the cause of a patient’s condition; there is a feeling of an unfinished puzzle needing to be completed.”

What should a patient do if they’re trying their best to get across to their practitioners and still don’t feel seen or heard?

Ask for referrals or discuss “next steps.” Keeping open lines of communication is helpful when building a patient/provider relationship. Like all relationships, there should be a good match and if the current situation is not a great fit, it is important to express your concerns and be transparent about your expectations and needs, in order to find that great fit.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about diagnosing chronic conditions—or about medicine in general—and is there anything you wish you could help people understand better?

I think the biggest misconception about diagnosing chronic conditions is that medical professionals are not interested in finding a cure for the illness or a cause. Science and medicine is ever-changing and evolving. Answers are not always apparent with an instruction manual to reference. Investigation and determination is key to diagnosing unfamiliar disease processes. Ask questions and educate yourself on what has been done and what the next steps in the investigation are. Strive to be an integral part of putting the puzzle pieces together. It is a long and arduous process, but the result is a solution for improving your quality of life.

What advice do you have for someone who might be suffering from a chronic condition and feeling stigma or shame?

Own it! Acknowledge that your chronic condition may not be as well defined as other more acute conditions. They are with you for a period of time, and may never go away. A chronic condition may be a part of you, but it doesn’t have to define who you are… unless you want it to!

Any good words to live by?

Continue to be determined, be your own best advocate, give grace… and be kind to yourself!
The views and opinions expressed in this campaign are those of the participants, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Sollis Health.
Sollis Health is a 24/7 doctor, private ER and concierge service rolled into one. Whether it’s an emergency or simply to diagnose the symptoms that you typically Google in the middle of the night, our emergency-trained doctors are ready for anything. Interested in becoming a Sollis member?

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