Is Working in Retail Health the Right Choice For You?

There are over 1,200 retail health clinics operating in 32 states according to the Convenient Care Association.  With the large number of such clinics, as a nurse practitioner it is likely you will encounter these employers in your job search.  But is retail medicine the right choice for you?

I have worked in two different retail health clinics, one in a grocery store and one in a drug store, in a PRN capacity.  This experience has given me insight into the retail health industry as well as the pros and cons of retail health employment.

Benefits of Working as a Nurse Practitioner in Retail Health

  • Opportunity For Growth in the Company: Do you want to broaden your professional experience beyond just providing patient care?  Large retail health companies have business structures that allow nurse practitioners to grow within the company to areas beyond providing direct patient care.  These companies like to have nurse practitioners in leadership positions as they are able to relate to those nurse practitioners providing patient care in their clinics.
  • Easy Work, Decent Pay: Retail health clinics treat only simple acute illnesses and often have protocols outlining the steps for treatment.  Some clinics are expanding to offer care to patients with chronic illnesses but these will be straightforward cases.  If you are uncomfortable caring for complex patients, retail health could be a good place for you.  Many of these clinics are also not busy.  As a retail health nurse practitioiner, I recall often seeing only six patients in a twelve hour shift while being paid $50/ hour.

Drawbacks of Working as a Nurse Practitioner in Retail Health

  • Limitations on Growth in Clinical Skills: If you work in a retail clinic you will not continue to improve your clinical skills.  You will not have the opportunity to do procedures and have a very limited opportunity to increase your medical knowledge as these clinics only allow you to treat certain types of patients.  This can restrict your future employment opportunities should you ever decide to leave retail health.
  • You Run the Clinic: As a retail clinic nurse practitioner, you may have a medical assistant, but most likely you will work alone.  You take the insurance information, accept credit cards, enter patient information into the computer, mop the floors, wipe the countertops etc.  You may or may not enjoy this type of work experience.
  • Boredom!  It can get old treating mainly strep and upper respiratory infections.  If you work at a clinic that is slow, you will find that you may eventually tire of spending hours a day on Facebook.  It depends on your personality.  If you are someone who enjoys a challenge, seeks new learning opportunities and enjoys a more fast-paced work environment, retail medicine is not for you.

Comments

Spot on the above comment. All of it is absolutely true. Been in retail health for almost 6 years now and built up the clinic from the afore mentioned "6 patients a day" to 60 in a day (now up to half can be vaccines, minor things like PPDs, etc). This can be exhausting during the sick season. 3 months straight of 12-13 hours. The patients will be outright mean to you and threaten you. As a male, I do not receive nearly as much of this disrespect as the females, which is both disconcerting and sexist. We even have panic alarms at our desks and in our pockets. I have had some of my clinic cohorts call me in a panic as patients banged on her flimsy door shouting expletives and threats as she refused to see them past closing time. YOU ARE ALONE. There is no team. There is no one to bounce this off of. There is no I need to go to the bathroom real quick. It is not for the timid. You must have a strong backbone and be either ready to cave in to patient demands for treatment for their sniffles, or get ready for a fight with every patient that walks in the door who is non-bacterially infected. There are times when it is good. You leave work at work. You don't stay up worrying about patients all night (in most cases, strep is strep, with a simple recovery). You don't have too many "train wreck" patients. If you have good peers, PTO can be worked out well so that you get most times off. But it is all about the numbers; make no mistake. See more, see them faster, do it all yourself, don't make a mistake. The pay is good, depending on your region. I have done it for almost 6 years now without much regret, but at times have questioned my sanity. Turnover is massive in this industry as a result. I am not afraid of working hard as I have always worked 12 hour shifts in my 13 year career, but sometimes it is just too much. If the position ever went salary, the only people who would work it are new grads. Any time I spend working I get paid for, including overtime. The 2 weekends a month though are killer, and you miss anything fun and festive. What the hell am I supposed to do all day Monday? Going to the bank only take s 10 minutes...It is OK for a couple of years, after that it is time for a change in most cases...limited managerial roles unlike what is stated above. That is not usually what you want anyway, I assume, as most of use are patient driven. I could continue but this is enough. I felt it a duty to put a few cents in...

Dude

I have worked at both of the major retail clinic companies and must say retail clinics are anything but "not busy"! We have lines of patients that NEVER end. There is a line waiting for me when I arrive to work and a line of people begging, crying, threatening, screaming to be seen well past closing time every single day (even after you have been open for 12 hours). After 12 solid hours of nonstop patients, you are never afforded the right to stop and go home with dignity. Either your supervisor makes u stay late but it's usually the patients playing guilt games. You can't even go to the bathroom without stares and sighs from patients that refuse to consider that you have been seeing many folks for HOURS before they ever arrived. Patients walk into these clinics without an appointment expecting to be seen immediately. They have no concept that they are not the only human beings to walk the earth and that there are many people signed in who arrived before they did. You have to babysit and explain to grown adults this concept on a minute by minute basis. The companies do nothing to help you with crowd control. There is no "front office" assistance and any weirdo can walk off the streets and threaten the NP to be seen immediately despite the long line of patients. Not to mention patients come when they are not even sick, but their cousins sisters boyfriends aunt who lives in another state has bronchitis and they would like antibiotics for themselves in case they get bronchitis to "nip it in the butt". and a zpack please.

Anonymous

I was offered a position as an FNP with MinuteClinic in the northeast. The offer was for $52.00/hour which sounds good on its face but there are drawbacks. First, you are working only 30 hours week for two weeks followed by a 35 hour week -- then repeat. Here's how it goes: 30H, 30H, 35H, 30H, 30H, 35H. You get the idea. The 30 hour week broke down into three 11 hour days, which is in reality a 33 hour week but you are not paid for your 1 hour lunch (cheapskates!). And the 3 days of the week are always different from week to week so very difficult to plan your life around such a variable schedule as you cannot count on anything. The 35 hour week includes 2 week days and both Saturday and Sunday. There are also no sick days. And if you are sick, you must find your own coverage. You are expected to travel to meetings and other MinuteClinic locations when needed. Although you are independent in that you essentially run your clinic, you also do the maintenance duties and handle the payment transactions. There are no windows and a small confined space. There are no appointments -- you essentially take all comers. All treatment and Rx is per CVS protocol -- so no independence there. Also no bonus structure. The visit charges average $79. to $89. just to walk in the door. I was disappointed with the quality of the managers and the lack of overall company support. It is ALL about the money and the numbers. You are a cog in their wheel which is both dehumanizing and diminishing for a HCP.

anonymous

I worked at a drug store clinic and it was NOT a good fit for my persinality! I got so tired of treating patients with colds. I also didn't like the added clinic duties that came with working alone like taking out the trash and using the credit card machine. In a way, that made it more stressful for me than just focusing on patient care working at a primary care clinic.

Emily

I work in a retail health clinic and love it! It isn't as stressful as my prior family practice position. I have also been able to take on some administrative duties which gives me a little variety.

Annie