Urgent care is sort of like the bridge between primary care and emergency care. Primary care providers (PCPs) provide ongoing care, as well as diagnose and treat a broad range of minor to moderate conditions. On the other hand, emergency care exists to treat life-threatening conditions. Urgent care exists to provide immediate care for non-life-threatening conditions.
As an urgent care physician, you will most likely be employed in an urgent care setting, providing treatment for those in need who can’t get an appointment with their PCP, but don’t require emergency care. However, there are a few other places beside urgent care where you can be employed.
Telemedicine, also known as telehealth, is virtual healthcare. Medical facilities were one of the few places that didn’t shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, but accessing healthcare services virtually still became pretty popular. In fact, telemedicine is still very popular today, and urgent care physicians can meet with patients virtually.
Because patients seeking urgent care aren’t experiencing life-threatening illnesses, telemedicine can be a good option. Sometimes it can be unclear to patients if they’re experiencing a certain illness, and virtually meeting with an urgent care doctor can help save an unnecessary trip. However, if a patient does need treatment, then as an urgent care physician you have to tell them to seek in-person treatment.
Working in telemedicine provides convenience for both you and the patients you’re meeting with virtually. If you need/prefer to work from home, then telemedicine may be a good option for you.
While not too common, you can find work in physician offices, such as family medicine practices. This medical setting provides comprehensive and continuous care to its patients, so it’s not the same as an urgent care clinic where you don’t always see the same patients continuously. However, many of the same skills are used in both types of facilities, so your knowledge is easily transferable from urgent care to private practice.
Working in a private practice will give you a slightly more stable schedule than working in an urgent care center. Urgent is usually open seven days a week and for up to 12 hours a day. Private practices are usually only open from Monday through Friday from mid-morning until late afternoon/early evening. If you prefer these hours, consider working in a private practice rather than an urgent care clinic.
Open Your Own Clinic
Finally, you can create an employment opportunity for yourself by opening your own urgent care clinic, primary care practice, or a combination of both. Some urgent care centers function as a primary care provider for patients even though urgent care and primary care serve two distinct purposes— but it’s still possible. In fact, you may be able to get more business if you advertise yourself as an urgent care clinic that also provides primary care, or as a primary care facility that provides urgent care to walk-ins.
If you decide to take this route, just keep in mind that this is very similar to starting any other type of business, meaning that you must obtain funding and insurance to protect your business. You can open this practice on your own (but it would be smarter to do so as a group practice with a family medicine physician), and both primary and urgent care tend to employ the same kinds of medical professionals (e.g. physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, lab technicians, etc.).
The smartest way to go about opening an urgent care and primary care practice would be to have a distinct area for patients who have chosen to make your practice their primary care and a separate area for those using it as urgent care only. Also, have signs posted and let it be known that an appointment must be made for primary care, while your urgent care center accepts walk-ins for non-life-threatening medical conditions. Organization will be key to making this type of practice successful.
Because urgent care physicians and physicians of all types are always in high demand, you may not have to seek work outside of an urgent care clinic. Most urgent care physicians don’t have trouble finding employment in urgent care, but if you are having trouble, or if you want a change of scenery, you do have other options. What’s most important is that you find a work environment that allows you to take the best care of your seniors— whether they’re regular patients or walk-ins.