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The growing number of retail walk-in clinics has created new workplace options for nurse practitioners. According to the Convenient Care Association, there are now more than 1,350 retail walk-in clinics in the U.S.
"Our clinics offer affordable, accessible and ... high-quality health care," says Paulette Thabault, Chief Nurse Practitioner Officer for MinuteClinic, a division of CVS Caremark Corporation, the largest pharmacy health care provider in the United States. "CVS has 600 MinuteClinics in 25 states and is adding about 100 new clinics each year," she notes.
These and other retail walk-in clinics are staffed by nurse practitioners, as well as some physicians' assistants. Nurse practitioners are board-certified nursing professionals who diagnose and treat illnesses. They have advanced education and training and master's degrees in the science of nursing.
Thabault says that retail walk-in clinics, like MinuteClinics, are ideal for diagnosing, treating and writing prescriptions for common family illnesses such as upper respiratory infections, sore throats, sinusitis, and urinary infections. They provide point-of-care testing so there is no waiting for results. Nurse practitioners follow evidence-based guidelines and treat patients of all ages at these retail clinics. They also provide other medical services including monitoring chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension and provide preventive health and wellness services including administering vaccinations and immunizations. They even conduct school and sports physicals.
The National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) noted that of the 119 million visits consumers make to hospital emergency rooms in a given year, more than half (55 percent) are for non-emergencies. In a recent NCPA Brief Analysis, Devon Herrick noted that patients often use emergency rooms because they have difficulty finding a physician, obtaining an appointment or taking time from work for a traditional office visit. Herrick reports that retail walk-in clinics are one solution to making medical care accessible and convenient.
According to Thabault, "Unlike traditional medical offices, CVS MinuteClinics are open seven days a week and provide services into the evening hours. Consumers appreciate the convenience of being able to receive medical services after work and school hours. No appointment is necessary, you simply walk in."
In Herrick's report, he notes that "The growth of the Internet, high-speed telecommunication networks and electronic medical records have made it possible for patients to seek care in a variety of clinical settings without losing the continuity of care a primary care provider offers."
"We encourage patients to have a primary care provider (PCP). We even offer a resource list to those who don't have a primary care physician. For everyone seen by one of our nurse practitioners, we create a summary of the visit for the patient and send a copy to their PCP," notes Thabault.
Thabault concludes, "Store-based MinuteClinics offer great career opportunities and tremendous flexibility for nurse practitioners to work autonomously and integrate their practice with a health care team." The clinics offer full-time and part-time positions, with most nurse practitioners working a 10-hour shift.
"There are also opportunities for nurse practitioner students to work alongside certified nurse practitioners to gain more experience in assessing, diagnosing and treating medical conditions," adds Thabault.
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