Nurse practitioner makes house calls his business
MILFORD >> Narissa Leone of West Haven has five children and says, “I absolutely love it,” that she no longer has to bring the other four kids to the pediatrician with her when one of them is sick.
Leone just picks up the phone to call longtime nurse practitioner Charles Wetmore and he shows up at her doorstep to provide medical care.
Wetmore has started a business, Pediatric House Call Solutions, that provides house calls for sick visits, wellness check-ups and consultations on any pediatric subject.
Wetmore believes his is the only pediatric house call visit service in the state.
“I adore him as a person and he remembers every minute detail about my children,” Leone said. “He’s incredible.”
She said when Wetmore comes to treat her 12-year-old, he always also pays attention to the 4-year-old, pretending to see him, too.
Wetmore, who has some 16 years of experience as a nurse practitioner, working 10 years at Milford Pediatric Group and most recently at Pediatrics Plus in North Haven, started his business in September 2014, after the laws changed that July to allow APRNs with a certain degree of experience to practice on their own.
“I always knew how difficult it was to bring a kid who’s sick to the office,” he said. “Kids are your most prized possession. It’s really rewarding to make a person’s most prized possession healthy,” and the adults in their life happy, too.
Wetmore said children waiting in offices are exposed to other sick children and sometimes for an extended period if there’s a schedule delay.
In a house call, sick children can stay in bed and Wetmore gets to see them in a more relaxed environment, as well as getting the chance to note an exacerbating health conditions in the environment that could affect health, he said.
15 MILES FROM HOME
Wetmore, who is married with three daughters, will go on calls 15 miles from his Milford home, which puts his range from about Westport to Branford.
He believes the house calls of the old days disappeared largely because of the evolving technology — the need to have testing and treatment equipment.
Today’s gains in technology make it possible once again to provide thorough house calls, because he can bring the office with him, Wetmore said. In his car trunk, Wetmore has a lot of treatment equipment, including a nebulizer, oxygen set-up and extensive testing equipment, including for blood tests.
Wetmore walks in with a bag of basic supplies, including a blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, lights for examining ears and throats, Tylenol, Motrin, tissues, bandages and of course, lollipops.
He said one big reason for house calls years ago was necessity: Most families had one car, the husband had the car to get to work and mother no way to get to a doctor. These days, mothers have a car and jobs, but because they’re so busy, getting to the pediatrician’s office can be inconvenient, some of his customers say.
When Wetmore goes on a call, he stays as long as he has to in order to answer questions, address other concerns. It can be 20 minutes to an hour.
“There is no clock,” he said, noting that while working for a practice, he saw parents couldn’t get all their questions answered because he was trying to get to the next appointment
“It’s the, ‘By the way,’ conversation that parents want to have — and often there’s something important in the ‘By the way,”’ he said.
So far he’s treated asthma, pink eye, knee pain, flu, urinary tract infections, stomach bugs, ear infections, rashes and more.
Recently, Wetmore went on a house call to the Soto home in Milford to do follow-up on Joey, 12, whom he treated for an ear infection 10 days earlier.
“So how does your ear feel? Are you taking the medicine?” Wetmore asked Joey, as he checked his vitals, then his hearing with an audiogram because while ear infections usually clear with antibiotics, can have a longer effect on hearing, Wetmore said.
“Dr. Charlie,” as he is known by many, asks Joey how school was that day. Joey, whose sitting on the couch in his living room, said he had three tests in a row and thinks he did well.
After the hearing check, Wetmore told Joey his hearing was good and added: “So when your mom tells you to do something, you can hear fine.”
Joey’s mother, Alison Soto, said they saw Wetmore for many years in the office and when they heard about his house call business, switched to him for the treatment needs of her children.
Soto said it’s great not to have to leave home after work to take her children to the doctor or take a day off to get them there.
One of her daughters plays high school softball and often has injuries that need medical attention, Soto said. She also ran into a problem getting a physical for one of the children by a deadline, so Wetmore took care of it.
She said Wetmore will come any day, even on the weekend, then follows up, and she can text him anytime with questions or concerns.
“It’s super-awesome to be familiar with your (care provider) and it makes the kids feel comfortable,” she said. “We love Charlie.”
Aside from the convenience, the quality of the care is top notch, she said.
Joey said he feels better getting medical care at home because he doesn’t like seeing all the “crazy” equipment in the pediatrician’s office.
The cost of a house call is $80 for a sick visit, $100 for a physical. Right now, the patient must pay Wetmore upfront and get reimbursed by insurance, but soon he will be able to bill insurers directly so there is no out-of-pocket cost except for co-pays.
“You can’t put a price tag on piece of mind,” he said.
Wetmore said not only is it personalized service, but much less expensive than running to urgent care or emergency room, where waits can be hours.
He gets calls at all hours and all days.
He said another advantage to using his service is: “You only have to tell your story once,” while at a pediatric office you may have to talk to five people before you get to the doctor and with complications or questions off hours, or have to talk to answering service.
Wetmore began as a registered nurse years ago and knew he wanted to delve deeper into the medical field, but he couldn’t go to medical school because by then he had a wife, child and mortgage to support.
So he enrolled at Yale and became an APRN to pursue his goals.
Early in his nursing career, Wetmore worked in the pediatric Intensive Care Unit and decided he loved working with kids.
“They say crazy things. They see the world in a way that’s genuine and innocent,” Wetmore said of children.
Wetmore said that on visits children love to show him their rooms, video games, pets and siblings.
“If the child thinks it’s important,” he’ll take the time to meet their stuffed animals.
He also does consults for those who have concerns about issues not related to illness, such as teenagers grappling with teenage issues, then, if need be, refers to them to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other appropriate place.
So far Wetmore is loving his new gig.
“I knew I was going to like it,” Wetmore said, noting that since he’s on his own, he’s learning new things about marketing, logistics and purchasing.