I’ve worked as a nurse practitioner in retail health a few times during my years as an NP. I’ve held these positions in a PRN capacity for various reasons. First, with the purchase of my home I wanted to generate a little extra income to indulge in some (obviously necessary) decor. Later, I found myself bored on weekdays off from my ER job and decided extra work on the side would be a productive use of my time. Whatever your reasons for considering a career in retail health, the job has pros and cons. Here’s what you need to know before accepting a nurse practitioner position in retail health.
1. Expect non-clinical duties
As an experienced urgent care and emergency nurse practitioner, treating actual patients in a retail health clinic didn’t worry me. I was confident I could handle the lower acuity of this patient population and refer out more complex cases as needed. What did stress me out about the position? The credit card machine.
Working in a retail health clinic, you may be the sole provider or work alongside a medical assistant. Regardless, you can expect some non-clinical duties to be added to your list of job responsibilities in this setting. You’ll likely be in charge of inputting insurance information, accepting payment for patient visits, and balancing the books at the end of the day. You may even be on trash duty or be in charge of reordering supplies. For me, this part of the job was most stressful. As a PRN employee, it was difficult to keep up with changes made to the clinic’s day-to-day operating procedures. While these duties don’t take a significant amount of time and are relatively easy to master, they are something to be aware of if you’re a nurse practitioner looking to work retail.
2. Your position could offer unmatched flexibility
One of the best parts of working retail health was the flexibility. Because most retail clinic chains have multiple stores in each job market, nurse practitioners are able to swap shifts with one another or call on PRN NPs to help in times of need. As a PRN nurse practitioner, I could have picked up a shift at one of the clinics in my city almost any day of the week. I had as much or as little work as I wanted .The flexibility of nurse practitioners working in these clinics is enviable in many job markets.
Aside from flexibility within your given position, retail health chains often hire a variety of full-time, part-time, and PRN nurse practitioner positions. So, whatever your employment needs, there’s likely a job to accommodate.
3. Working weekends and holidays will be your m.o.
Although retail health offers flexibility, it does require working weekends and holidays. Nurse practitioners working full-time in retail health typically work alternating weekend and holiday shifts. Some chains may offer a weekend shift differential helping soften the blow. Holiday pay is typically awarded as well. Despite the inconvenience of working weekends, many clinics shorten their hours on Saturday and Sunday leaving time for family and social activities.
4. Expect to work solo…sort of
Seated at my desk in the middle of a grocery store clinic felt lonely at times (I filled the void by making frequent purchases from the candy aisle). I imagined that for a new provider, the lack of support from other healthcare providers could be intimidating. But, in reality I was well supported. A designated supervising physician was available by phone-and he answered on the first ring. Most of all, nurse practitioners staffing other locations were quick to address my concerns or answer any questions I had. In turn, I also received many calls from fellow NPs asking for a second clinical opinion. While I didn’t have a coworker to chat with during my lunch break, I wasn’t alone when it came to treating my patients.
5. Your scope of practice will be limited
Retail health clinics treat a limited number of medical conditions. While their menu of services is ever expanding, your scope of practice will be limited working in this environment. Many clinics even have strict protocols outlining how patients with certain diagnoses must be treated. If you are looking for a broad foundation for your future practicing as a nurse practitioner, working in retail medicine may not be for you. If you enjoy focusing on lower acuity medical problems, it could be the perfect niche.
6. Keep corporate opportunities in mind
As part of larger corporations, retail health clinics offer unique managerial and administrative opportunities. If you’re a nurse practitioner with a business bent, you may consider working your way up to be a market leader or take on other administrative responsibilities within the company. Accepting a position with a retail health clinic could very well be your first step to using your nurse practitioner degree outside of the medical setting.
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