Walk-in retail clinics have sprouted throughout the country in the past decade: MinuteClinic, RediClinic, Healthcare Clinic (formerly TakeCare), The Little Clinic, Target Clinic, FastCare and others. To date, there are over 2000 retail clinics throughout the United States. These facilities not only provide convenience and ease of health care access to patients, they also create opportunities for nurse practitioners and physician assistants to establish a practice. In fact, after I graduated from the University of Tennessee in 2006 and got my family nurse practitioner’s board certification, my first job was at MinuteClinic.
After working at the MinuteClinic for almost two years, a brand new The Little Clinic opportunity came along for me. In total, I have almost four years of experience working within the retail health clinic setting. From these experiences come my perspective of pros and cons of working at a retail clinic. Here are my top 5 pros and cons as a nurse practitioner.
- Pay. It is the reality of life that we have to work to support our families and ourselves. Number one great thing about working at the retail clinics is pay. From my experience of comparing outpatient NP job opportunities with opportunities that came with retail clinics, the pay has always been significantly better at the retail clinics.
- Autonomy. It has been great to work with others, but there is always a beauty in having complete control in how you deliver healthcare from the minute you greet your patient in the morning to the moment you clean the clinic spotless when you close it up at night.
- List of services and guidelines. A lot of retail clinics have a defined list of services that they offer for the patients. Some clinics also provide up-to-date clinical guidelines for the practitioners of how to take care of the conditions the clinic treats. The great and convenient thing about this is that it delivers the highest standard of care to the patient known to date. At the MinuteClinic I remember saying that while we may only treat a few common things, we treat them uncommonly well.
- Flexibility of schedule. As a nurse practitioner of the retail clinic, you have a predictable set number of hours. You can also choose the dates you would like to work. You can schedule your vacations. The staffing help, in my experience, has always been available if planned in advanced.
- Health team members. While you are the only staff member at the clinic, you have several team members that work in the same “market” as you and are available by phone. If you need a medical consult, housekeeping question or just emotional support you can always reach out to your colleague working in the neighboring clinic in the same town.
- Isolation. While being autonomous and running a clinic on your own is great, at times I missed working shoulder-to-shoulder with other health team members. I felt that I missed that coworker connection.
- Multi-tasking. There is nothing new about multi-tasking for nurses and nurse practitioners; but at the retail clinic you are the greeter, the insurance information collector, the medical provider, the lab tech, office manager and the clean up crew.
- Small space. Most retail clinics have a nice environment, well lit and equipped; however, the space is very small. Because you see a lot of upper respiratory conditions, I felt that to keep the clinic sanitary I had to clean and sterilize the surfaces and use disinfectant air spray often.
- Working weekends and holidays. Since most clinics provide services 7 days a week 365 days a year, you will be expected to work weekends and holidays on a rotating basis. At the Minute Clinic I worked every third weekend and at The Little Clinic I worked every other weekend. The good thing about the weekend and holiday work is that the company pays a higher rate.
- Boredom. Imagine eating your favorite dish day in and day out. While it might be exciting and delicious at first, after awhile you get bored and start craving some variety. The same is with the retail clinics. You may love what you do, but there is only certain conditions that the clinic offers on their list of services which leaves you to treating the same conditions over an over again.
These are my top 5 pros and 5 cons that come to mind from working at the retail clinics. Overall, I believe that retail clinics offer convenient and high quality services to the patients. It is also a great place for a nurse practitioner to work because of good pay, flexibility and autonomy.