A Day in the Life of an Urgent Care Nurse Practitioner

Urgent care clinics love to hire NP's.  The urgent care realm is perfect for new NP grads as well as NP's with years of experience.  It provides a lot of routine along with a touch of unpredictable excitement.  To get an idea of what life is like in urgent care, we have asked FNP Kala Sims to share her experiences.

One of the benefits of working as an urgent care NP is that I only work three days a week.  Although my days are long, 7am to 7 or 8 pm, I enjoy the flexibility of the three day work week.  Being that my clinic is open everyday except Christmas, I do however have to work every other weekend and some holidays.  I work with two different doctors who rotate shifts.  As an NP with only six months of experience, this has helped me learn because I am exposed to physicians with two very different methods of practice.  On weekends I work alone in the clinic alongside two medical assistants but am able to contact a physician at another clinic by phone if I have any questions.

One day last week I arrived at the clinic a 6:55am to find a short line at the door.  Patients often come in before and after work so this is a common occurrence.  My first patient presents with a small laceration on her left index finger.  She was preparing breakfast and while trying to open a package of bacon with a knife, slipped and cut her finger.  I examen the wound thoroughly to make sure there are no signs of tendon involvement and determine the laceration will require a few sutures.  I irrigate the wound, place 3 sutures in the finger and make sure the medical assistant gives her a tetanus shot.  I discharge her with strict instructions to follow up if signs of infection develop.

Next, I care for two children, three-year-old and five-year-old brothers who present with sore throats and fevers.  On exam, their tonsils are enlarged and swollen with exudate.  Their other sibling has just been diagnosed with strep so I decide to forgo the strep test and treat them both with amoxicillin.

My third patient presents for a workplace injury.  Working in urgent care, I treat a lot of work comp patients for injuries such as sprains, strains and contusions.  This patient slipped on an unmarked wet floor and twisted her ankle.  I order an ankle X-Ray and review the film.  No signs of fracture.  I ask the medical assistant to place an ACE wrap on the affected ankle, instruct the patient to rest, ice, and elevate her ankle for 2 days.  I fill out the forms her employer has sent requesting that she be given a sedentary job until her next follow up when I suspect she will be able to return to regular duty. 

The pace at the clinic slows in the afternoon and I take a quick lunch break.  While in the break room I notice a flourish of activity at the front of the clinic.  A 24 year old male was playing paintball with his friends.  He was shot with a few paintballs in the leg and immediately began to get hives and severe shortness of breath.  Between labored breaths, he is able to tell us that he is allergic to red dye and thinks the pink paintballs have triggered an allergic reaction.  The physician I work with orders the receptionist to call 911 and then immediately gives this patient a shot of epinephrine.  His breathing begins to improve and the ambulance arrives to take him to the closest ER to be treated for an anaphylactic reaction. 

The afternoon rolls on similar to the morning with routine work comp follow ups, sore throats and cases of bronchitis.  At 6:50 I begin to watch the clock.  We lock the doors at 7 but any patient that arrives up until 7 gets treated.  I hate it when 5 patients walk in at 6:58- it makes for a late night!  Luckily, tonight I leave on time and head home for dinner with friends.

Have questions about the urgent care life?  Let us know below!

 

Comments

Hello Erin,
Can you please write more about Urgent Care Nurse Practitioners? I work in an Immediate Care Center which also does family practice. I like the urgent care aspect of it. I'm looking forward to working in a facility which provides urgent care only. But I do not have much knowledge about this type of setting. You did a piece where you mentioned Urgent Care Nurse Practitioner salary, and also "A Day in the Life of an Urgent Care Nurse Practitioner," but I could not find any more content. I like working in the Urgent Care setting also because it is not open overnights. My schedule is mostly stable. Anyways, I hope you do more articles on Urgent / Immediate Care Nurse Practitioners.

Todd

I would like to see more advances for Acute Care Nurse Practitioners. I would think that Urgent Care centers focus more on Acute problems and not primary. Therefore, ACNP could see adult patients along side of FNPs without seeing children.

Scott Franklin

I have always admired urgent care nurses and wanted to know more about their lifestyle. It is interesting to learn that most of these practitioners only work three days a week. My sister is thinking about going into this field and I think it would be great for her because of the provided opportunities to help others.

Jade Brunet

Hi Felicia, 

I would suggest applying to these positions. Your other experiences as a nurse practitioner, and as a nurse, do have some overlap with urgent care. Centering your continuing education around urgent care related topics will also help. For example, I would recommend attending a skills session so you can refresh skills like suturing and I&D that are commonly used in urgent care. 

Erin Tolbert

I am a FNP with 5 years experience: 2 years in Internal Medicine and 3 years Adult Home Visits. I've been a RN for 29 years. My background has been ICU and ER. I am interested in working the Urgent Care Setting. All job postings that I come upon require experience. Do you have any suggestions to help me make this transition.

Felicia

Why do university make it so difficult for NP students to find clinical sites? They absolutely refuse us to be able to go to Urgent Cares for clinicals. They force M-F Fam prac clinics (those most of the time don't even hire NPs).

carla

Hi Whitney,

The best resume-builder if you want to work in urgent care is experience in a walk-in or urgent care clinic. I believe the Carolinas Health System also offers an urgent care residency which would be a great way to transition into NP practice. 

I agree that a course or certification in urgent care would be helpful but I'm not aware of any aside from the residency at the moment!

Erin Tolbert

Hi Erin,

I was wondering if you know why there aren't certifications for NP's in Urgent Care. I've been looking all over and can't find one. I think it would be a helpful credential to add to my resume, what do you think?

Whitney

This blog really helped! I was wanting to figure out which would be best, FNP or dual ceritfications. I already have two masters in nursing, 15 years critical care in nursing along with cath lab, scrub tech (long ago) and case management. Currently, I am a CPT in the Army and command Drill Sgs through the 1/354th TD. I applied to Several universities as a post masters FNP with DNP for my next step. I am just waiting on the acceptance letters to plan further. However, I have really been second guessing whether 'just' doing FNP or doing FNP with emergency or other options might be best. It is so good to see all the positive and supportive remarks about Urgent care and your personal view. I learned to suture long ago so no worries there, but I do also worry that I may have to further specialize. I think the Urgent Care is going to work out well for the beginning of my career.

Theresa

Hi Blair,

It is not unheard of for an RN to go from urgent care to the emergency department. I would make sure the transition is with an employer who is willing to train you. In the ER you will need more skills than in urgent care such as IV medication administration, managing critically ill patients etc. As long as you are supported, working in the ER could be a good next step!

Erin Tolbert

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