Urgent care nurses are registered nurses who specialize in providing walk-in care to patients with non-life-threatening yet urgent needs. Patients seeking urgent care can be of any age and present with a wide range of issues, so working in an urgent care clinic can be unpredictable. The increasing demand for urgent, non-emergency care has made these clinics one of the fastest-growing segments of healthcare and heightened the demand for experienced urgent care RNs. Workdays are often fast-paced but with less drama than an ED yet with the same challenge of never knowing who might walk in with what problem.
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Urgent Care Nurse FAQs
What does an urgent care nurse do?
Urgent care clinics are popular with patients seeking convenient, affordable treatment for minor conditions without the long waits and high costs associated with emergency departments or having to wait for an appointment with their primary care provider. Urgent care nurses treat these patients in outpatient or ambulatory settings and the diverse nature of conditions that patients may present with each day results in a wide variety of tasks.
The first task is performing triage to confirm a patient isn’t experiencing an emergency medical issue that requires ED care instead of an urgent healthcare need that can be treated in the clinic. Other duties an urgent care nurse may have include:
Taking patients’ vital signs and recording their symptoms
Performing physical examinations
Assisting during exams and procedures
Collaborating with physicians/PAs/NPs on treatment plans
Obtaining and preparing specimens for in-house lab testing, if applicable
Administering medications and treatments
Cleaning and dressing wounds
Explaining treatments and after-care instructions
Answering questions from patients and their families
Where do urgent care nurses work?
Urgent care nurses work in urgent care clinics, but these clinics can be independent freestanding clinics or attached to an affiliated hospital. Some urgent care nurses may seek employment with a mobile urgent care clinic, bringing healthcare to underserved communities or potentially even making house calls. Urgent care clinics are typically small with limited staff and hours, sometimes supplementing nearby ED services. This type of work setting may be ideal for nurses seeking alternatives to traditional clinical roles.
What skills make a good urgent care nurse?
Good urgent care nurses have in-depth knowledge of best nursing practices in an urgent care setting and strong assessment skills. They’re extremely comfortable treating patients of all ages with all types of urgent, non-emergency illnesses, injuries, and other healthcare needs. Because they often work with limited patient data, sound clinical judgment and superb analytical and critical thinking skills assist them with prioritizing patient care. Successful urgent care nurses are highly adaptable, ready for anything, and excel at stress management. They also possess excellent collaboration skills and above-average communication and interpersonal skills that allow them to effectively interact with widely varied patient populations and other healthcare team members. Problem-solving, multitasking, and organizational skills round out the talents of a highly efficient urgent care nurse.
How to become a Travel Urgent Care Nurse
The first step towards a career as an urgent care nurse is becoming a registered nurse by completing an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing and passing the NCLEX-RN exam to become licensed in a single state or multiple states if the home state is part of the Nurse Licensure Compact. Certification in Basic Life Support is required, and some roles may require ACLS. Some employers may expect urgent care nurses to have experience in emergency medicine or triage.
Because urgent care clinics are considered ambulatory or outpatient clinics, an urgent care RN should consider professional certification in ambulatory nursing to create a professional edge in competitive job markets. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers Ambulatory Care Nursing Certification (AMB-BC) after an RN has practiced full-time for two years and has accumulated a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical practice and 30 hours of continued education in ambulatory care nursing. Travel urgent care nurses will need 1-2 years of experience before taking an assignment.