As a nurse with advanced skills and decades of experience, Jayne Hermes wasn't exactly thrilled at the prospect of caring for people’s feet all day.
“I had witnessed ingrown toenails being taken off and knew that was not what I wanted to do,” she said.
Today, she’s glad she had a change of heart. Since opening Hermes Healthcare three years ago this month, Hermes has seen its patient load grow fivefold, to some 5,000 people.
The Wichita business cares for patients in a clinic in the Twin Lake Office Park and also operates mobile clinics in Emporia, Manhattan, Junction City, Kingman and Medicine Lodge, with plans to expand into Topeka as well.
Hermes said the rapid growth demonstrates a “clinically neglected gap in healthcare” for a body part that’s about as important they come in everyday life. Partly that’s because trimming and cleaning toenails, reducing calluses and other aspects of foot care aren't perceived as particularly challenging. Hermes held a similar view once but now notes that nurses working for her can spot serious health problems by examining patients’ feet.
Hermes worked as a registered nurse for some 25 years before returning to school to become a nurse practitioner. She went to Harris Health Care for a job interview and discovered that it was primarily focused on foot care. “I really did not have any interest at all in doing that,” she says, though she eventually “agreed to it for a few months.”
Hermes went on to work in primary and hospice care but continued to occasionally help Judy Harris, a nurse practitioner who had started Harris Health Care about 20 years earlier. “Finally,” she says, “I found that I looked forward to going to foot care clinics.”
When Harris retired, she offered Hermes a patient list of 1,000 people. Hermes said she had plenty of leadership experience from her years nursing, but none as a business owner. Still, “I knew how valuable it was to patients and that somebody needs to do it.”
Hermes has a 1,500-square-foot clinic on north Amidon. Her employees also see patients at 72 locations outside Wichita. She employs 21 nurses, medical assistants and office staff and says she is always hiring to keep up with the demand.
“Patients have spread the word and the staff has done marketing,” she says. “It seems that the growth part has been easy, but it hasn’t been easy, because growing that fast certainly has its pains… (And) anytime you’re dealing with insurance or Medicare” there are complications.”
Hermes’ nurses treat patients in senior citizen centers, assisted living facilities and other locations. Many insurance plans and Medicare cover routine foot care for patients who have been diagnosed with diabetes, neuropathy, peripheral vascular disease and other conditions that contribute to foot problems such as poor circulation, fungus and sores. Other patients may be unable to properly care for their feet because of poor flexibility or loss of vision.
The nurses also measure patients’ ankle-brachial index — a comparison of blood pressure at the ankle and upper arm — which can indicate blocked arteries, and refer those patients to physicians.
“We save a lot of legs — I don’t know how many — and feet,” Hermes said. “We know we do prevent amputations.”
Hermes hopes to move her Wichita clinic to a bigger location on West Street this year.
“I’ve never been appreciated more in my life, in 35 years of being a nurse,” she said. “You look down a row of nurses, and all the nurses are smiling and all the patients are smiling.”
Address: 1900 N. Amidon, Suite 210
Owner: Jayne Hermes