Are you tired of your present nursing practice and thinking of a change?
Do you have great assessment skills?
Would you like to do something fast-paced, exciting, and very rewarding?
Or are you interested in reading about the various fields of healthcare and what goes on within certain practices?
Nonetheless, urgent care may be just what are you are looking for!
What is Urgent Care?
Urgent care is an outpatient practice that allows for the care of non-life-threatening injuries and illnesses. It can be a fast, sometimes demanding, exciting place to practice nursing.
Urgent care was designed to keep the non-emergent patient from going to the ER and to assist primary care providers who don’t have the extra time to see patients who need same-day appointments.
It is less expensive to be seen in urgent care for the client and the waiting times are most certainly less than in the ER.
Nurses can become quite autonomous in this setting once they become accustomed to each clinic’s and medical providers’ practice.
What Does Urgent Care Practice Look Like?
Most urgent care departments can be found in outpatient clinics; however, they may also be found in a separate area of an ER known as the “fast track.”
The term urgent care implies that the care delivered will be for concerns such as minor trauma, fractures, lacerations, incision and drainage of abscess/cysts, colds, flu, strains/sprains, and a myriad of other complaints and/or procedures that do not need immediate or emergent care to save “life or limb.”
What skills does a nurse need to practice in urgent care?
The following are some but not all skills needed.
- Excellent assessment skills
- The nurse should be able to understand which body system needs assessment and perform it with great confidence.
- Documenting the assessment with precise information i.e. Lung sounds diminished at base; rash is red, raised, itchy; tenderness and bruising to the area of injury to name a few.
- Ability to triage patients in order to provide the most appropriate care and anticipate patient needs as well as in what order a patient should be seen.
- What is the chief complaint?
- How urgent is the need and in what order should that patient be assessed and seen by the medical provider
- IV insertion
- Large bore IVs for quick access if transferring to the ED or rapid fluid bolus in the case of the dehydrated patient.
- The first dose of IV antibiotics for an infection.
- Testing and treatments
- Ability to draw blood for testing such as tick panels, and non-routine blood work.
- Understanding of outpatient testing and the ability to anticipate which tests will be needed and perform those tests prior to the medical provider seeing the patient.
- Urine dips and culture and sensitivities, swabs for strep, flu, and COVID-19, and wound cultures.
- Knowledge on how to use orthopedic supplies such as short and long-legged boots, post-op shoes, dressings for each type of wound or skin complaint, crutch training
- Ability to perform CPR and use the AED when a patient unexpectedly comes to Urgent Care with a life-threatening illness.
- Patient education
The urgent care nurse must understand the types of treatments in this setting and instruct the patient how to use equipment, how to take the prescribed medications, and general patient education on the illness or trauma and reinforce those instructions.
Most urgent care clinics now use computer systems to document findings and treatments. Urgent Care nurses should be proficient in learning to use the system in their facility.
On occasion, a patient with chest pain or major trauma will come through the clinic and the nurse should be aware of how to contact EMS at their site.
After working with a plethora of medical providers the nurse will be able to anticipate the practice of each provider and perform those assessments to that provider’s specific mode of treatment.
The skill sets are the major types of skills an urgent care nurse will learn and practice. Of course, every clinic will differ slightly depending on the venue and policies of each urgent care.
Whether you are interested in joining this field yourself or are simply wanting to learn more about another realm of healthcare, I am sure you have passed by an urgent care clinic or two and wondered what kind of work they do!
About The Author:
Elaine Enright, RN, BSN, is a graduate of Emmanuel College in Boston, MA.
Her career spans over 35 years as a registered nurse with experience in education, medical-surgical, emergency, and urgent care. She is also an author of continuing education for Nursing CE Central. also has expertise in Case Management and Nursing Management. During her career in education, she has been an adjunct professor with Boston University School of Social Work and the Tufts Institute for Medical Education as well as Cape Cod Community College’s nursing program, Assabet Valley LPN program, and Fisher College. Elaine has been a speaker at several continuing education programs over her career, focusing on managed care and case management.