Who Works in Urgent Care Clinics?

August 29, 2013
by Ben Amirault
Who Works in Urgent Care Clinics?

You may know what urgent care clinics are and when you should go there for care, but who is going to treat you when you arrive? In most cases, it’s the same people you would expect to find in a traditional doctor’s office or the emergency room.

Physician-Led Organizations

When you go to an urgent care clinic, you can be quite certain there will be a physician there. Urgent care clinics are largely physician-led facilities, with 94% of urgent care clinics employing at least one full-time physician. However, staffing models can vary depending on the needs of the particular clinic. Smaller urgent care clinics may be able to get by with a just one full-time physician, while busier clinics may employ multiple full-time physicians.

It is also common for urgent care clinics to employ several part-time physicians to staff their facility. In most cases, these providers have other positions in hospitals or private practices in the area and will “moonlight”, or pick up extra shifts, at the clinic. It’s possible you may see a doctor from the primary care practice you use working at your local urgent care clinic!

Urgent care clinics may also use locum tenens physicians to staff their facility. Locum tenens are temporary physicians who work for defined periods of time at healthcare organizations all over the country. Urgent care clinics often use locum tenens physicians to fill gaps in their schedule to ensure they can stay open. Others use locum tenens to ramp up their staff during busy periods such as flu season or tourist season.

Non-Physician Providers

It is also common to see non-physician providers working in urgent care clinics, primarily nurse practitioners and physician assistants. In fact, 59% of urgent care clinics use either nurse practitioners or physician assistants to support their physicians.

Although these providers are not doctors, they can provide many of the same services, such as diagnosing patients and writing prescriptions. You are in good hands with these providers. According to research, nurse practitioners provide a level of care that is comparable to physicians, and they have even outperformed physicians when it comes to patient satisfaction and clinical documentation.

Many emergency departments also employ nurse practitioners and physician assistants to treat patients who have non-emergent conditions, freeing up the physicians to handle more complex cases. These non-emergent conditions (i.e., cuts requiring stitches, sprains, minor skin conditions) are also frequently encountered in the urgent care setting, making nurse practitioners and physician assistants well-suited for this setting.

Again, it’s common for physician assistants and nurse practitioners to pick up shifts at urgent care clinics to supplement income earned in other positions. It’s also common for urgent care clinics to use locum tenens nurse practitioners and physician assistants to help staff the facility.

Other Clinical Staff

Depending on the injury or condition that brings you in on a given day, you may interact with other clinical staff during your urgent care visit. For example, almost every urgent care clinic has on-site x-ray technology, and 80% of clinics also employ an x-ray technician to run the equipment.

Urgent care clinics will also employ medical assistants and nurses to assist the physicians and non-physician providers with their duties. Much like the doctor’s office, it’s common for a nurse to check your vitals before you see the doctor.

No matter whom you see at your local urgent care clinic, rest assured that you are in good hands.

About Ben Amirault

Ben Amirault is a Content Marketing Editor for Barton Associates, a national locum tenens agency headquartered in Peabody, MA. Ben manages the company’s social media accounts and writes content for the company website, blog, and other marketing materials.