A Day in the Life of an Urgent Care Nurse Practitioner

Urgent care clinics love to hire NP’s.  The urgent care realm is perfect for new NP grads as well as NP’s with years of experience.  It provides a lot of routine along with a touch of unpredictable excitement.  To get an idea of what life is like in urgent care, we have asked FNP Kala Sims to share her experiences.

One of the benefits of working as an urgent care NP is that I only work three days a week.  Although my days are long, 7am to 7 or 8 pm, I enjoy the flexibility of the three day work week.  Being that my clinic is open everyday except Christmas, I do however have to work every other weekend and some holidays.  I work with two different doctors who rotate shifts.  As an NP with only six months of experience, this has helped me learn because I am exposed to physicians with two very different methods of practice.  On weekends I work alone in the clinic alongside two medical assistants but am able to contact a physician at another clinic by phone if I have any questions.

One day last week I arrived at the clinic a 6:55am to find a short line at the door.  Patients often come in before and after work so this is a common occurrence.  My first patient presents with a small laceration on her left index finger.  She was preparing breakfast and while trying to open a package of bacon with a knife, slipped and cut her finger.  I examen the wound thoroughly to make sure there are no signs of tendon involvement and determine the laceration will require a few sutures.  I irrigate the wound, place 3 sutures in the finger and make sure the medical assistant gives her a tetanus shot.  I discharge her with strict instructions to follow up if signs of infection develop.

Next, I care for two children, three-year-old and five-year-old brothers who present with sore throats and fevers.  On exam, their tonsils are enlarged and swollen with exudate.  Their other sibling has just been diagnosed with strep so I decide to forgo the strep test and treat them both with amoxicillin.

My third patient presents for a workplace injury.  Working in urgent care, I treat a lot of work comp patients for injuries such as sprains, strains and contusions.  This patient slipped on an unmarked wet floor and twisted her ankle.  I order an ankle X-Ray and review the film.  No signs of fracture.  I ask the medical assistant to place an ACE wrap on the affected ankle, instruct the patient to rest, ice, and elevate her ankle for 2 days.  I fill out the forms her employer has sent requesting that she be given a sedentary job until her next follow up when I suspect she will be able to return to regular duty.

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The pace at the clinic slows in the afternoon and I take a quick lunch break.  While in the break room I notice a flourish of activity at the front of the clinic.  A 24 year old male was playing paintball with his friends.  He was shot with a few paintballs in the leg and immediately began to get hives and severe shortness of breath.  Between labored breaths, he is able to tell us that he is allergic to red dye and thinks the pink paintballs have triggered an allergic reaction.  The physician I work with orders the receptionist to call 911 and then immediately gives this patient a shot of epinephrine.  His breathing begins to improve and the ambulance arrives to take him to the closest ER to be treated for an anaphylactic reaction.

The afternoon rolls on similar to the morning with routine work comp follow ups, sore throats and cases of bronchitis.  At 6:50 I begin to watch the clock.  We lock the doors at 7 but any patient that arrives up until 7 gets treated.  I hate it when 5 patients walk in at 6:58- it makes for a late night!  Luckily, tonight I leave on time and head home for dinner with friends.

Have questions about the urgent care life?  Let us know below!


29 thoughts on “A Day in the Life of an Urgent Care Nurse Practitioner”

  1. Hi Kala,
    I am a RN now and looking to go back to school. Working in the urgent care setting what is your degree? Did you go the route of Adult Med or Family Practice?
    Also did you have experience in emergency care or ICU before making the transition to NP?

  2. Hi Adrienne,

    If you want to work in Urgent Care, then I would choose the FNP (family) route.  Nearly all urgent care clinics treat children which you wouldn’t be able to do with the adult specialty.  An FNP degree will make you more employable.

    I have worked in urgent care before and did not have any prior ED or ICU experience.  The NP program I completed was for students without any prior nursing experience. 

  3. If only there were more places that allowed an NP to work with a physician or even another more experienced NP or PA in order to learn a specialty. I have found that this arrangement is very difficult to find. For instance : how did you learn to suture? This was not taught in NP school.
    I read where you can move to the ER after the Urgent care, but how is that possible when the ER is totally different, using IV meds etc, and doing intubations and such that are almost Never used in an Urgent care. Instead of calling 911, you are 911.

    I heard rumors of requiring a one year residency for NP’s and I hope it becomes reality, because I have seen a disturbing trend of physicians who hire NP’s, not to train and mentor them to help their practice, but to, in effect, take over their practice so that they can work much less right away. Training is non – existent. I have experienced this personally, even when they have told me that they would provide training. “Training” consisted of 1 or 2 days following them a little. No, that is not Training, it is “orientation”. I have heard the same from many many of my colleagues. Suturing and intubating, and ER IV dosing is Not learned by osmosis.

    1. This is spot on! When I graduated NP school in 2016, I had over 20 years of ICU experience. I wanted to be successful in the Urgent Care setting. It was impossible for me. I did not have suturing or radiology experience and they did not provide this training. I did not feel equipped and competent when showing up for my per diem shifts and they did not give me a proper orientation at all. I was thrown in day 1 and was not only very uncomfortable but chastised for not being fast enough right out of the gate. I like to practice safely and I did not feel safe in this environment and quit. I know I would have been successful if I had at least a week or 2 of training. So sad and unfortunate.

      1. I currently an ER nurse working on an FNP degree and then adding the PMNHP postmasters certificate. We have NP’s in our ER also. I can see how having emergency experience as a nurse is extremely beneficial, because I get to see the NP doing sutures, draining abscesses, etc. They usually explain what they are doing along the way. I get to see things one on one. The more I see it the better I am at anticipating what they want next. I see a lot of sutures and drains as well as other things. in the ER, there’s a lot of improvising. Im not sure how someone with no experience in healthcare would feel comfortable without some type of training. Combined with the physical emergencies are the mental emergencies. There’s a lot of this!!

  4. Hey Erin,

    You mentioned that the NP program you completed was for students without any prior nursing experience and I was wondering how did it feel entering the NP role without any prior nursing experience? I’m currently a FNP student and my program is the entry level master program for students with a prior bachelor degree. Almost everybody is telling me to take a leave of absence and work as an RN prior to starting the FNP program. But I know I want to be a FNP and I’m great with differential diagnosis. I don’t want to waste my time as a RN when my heart is directed towards FNP. Was it difficult for you to transition into the FNP role without any experience?

  5. Hi Christine,

    Don’t worry, you will be just fine without RN experience as long as you work hard and remain devoted to continuing your learning. Yes, I had to do a bit more on the job learning once I started my first job, but I quickly caught up to my colleagues with experience. The first few months in your first NP position will be stressful because you still have a lot to learn, but really this is true for all NP grads, those with RN experience or not.

    As an FNP, you will be in the best position to work without RN experience. For NPs working in the hospital and with higher acuity patients, experience is more important. My advice would be to find a job in a clinic that has multiple providers so you have plenty of colleagues to support you in your learning. 

  6. I just interviewed for an NP position at our Urgent Care. I am a new grad and TERRIFIED. Prescribing makes me nervous. Even more so with children. How long till that goes away? Are collaborating physicians pretty patient with new grads?

  7. I’m with Tina. I graduated in December but due to prior contract obligations could not seek an NP job until May. I have now been hired as an NP at a very busy urgent care center and am terrified that I’m going to look like I don’t know what I am doing. How long before you started feeling comfortable. It would have helped if I could have done some clinical hours here and knew the staff. Thanks

  8. Hi Shelly,

    It definitely takes some time to feel comfortable no matter where you start practicing. I would say it takes a few months, at least 3 or 4. The best thing to do is to ask questions of your coworkers. It’s not convenient but it is the best and safest way to learn. Check out this post for more info about my own experience. 

  9. Hello! Thanks for the great post. I was wondering if you recommend any particular resources for an urgent care NP. I am a new grad. What are your favorite books and apps? Thanks so much!

  10. An NP is mid’level to no one. A PA is mid’level to an MD, as the PA can go on in the program, similar to an MA going on to receive a SurgTech education, to receive an MD if they choose. As an NP, there is no higher clinical license in nursing. That means, an NP is not a midlevel, despite what this blog stated. Time to change the name of your blog and quit placing the lesser licensed and lesser educated PAs, who MUST practice under an MD in any state. Time to correct the mistaken impression that, because some state medical societies were successful in artificially restricting NPs professionally, NPs are somehow subservient to the MDs.

  11. What I would not give to have a debate with you about this. You just say so many things that arrive from nowhere that I am fairly sure I’d have a fair shot. Your blog is fantastic visually, I mean people won’t be bored.

  12. Thank you for this article! Today I am interviewing with an MD at a local Urgent Care for my summer practicum clinical hours. He is also hiring for NP position here….so maybe I will be able to precept with him with the position on the horizon 🙂
    At my NP school they offered an elective course called the Advanced Skills for Management of Illness and Injury which I think should have been a course for all NPs. The instructor has a website which is open access and discusses a whole consortium of skills. Of course learning and doing are two different things (I will probably be as nervous as starting my first IV when I do my first sutures)! I also viewed YouTube for further help in suturing, joint injections and lumbar punctures and found this helpful.

  13. I enjoyed this great article and I am wondering how many patients are you expected to see in 8 hours? I recently started working at an urgent care and in 12 hours the clinic sees between 50 – 80 pts in 12 hours and they have had an ER MD and NP, however are going to cut hours soon.

  14. I am starting a new RN position in an urgent care clinic. I am transferring with one year of RN experience on an acute rehabilitation unit at a hospital. Is it unheard of for RNs to go from an urgent care clinic to the emergency department?

  15. Hi Blair,

    It is not unheard of for an RN to go from urgent care to the emergency department. I would make sure the transition is with an employer who is willing to train you. In the ER you will need more skills than in urgent care such as IV medication administration, managing critically ill patients etc. As long as you are supported, working in the ER could be a good next step!

  16. This blog really helped! I was wanting to figure out which would be best, FNP or dual ceritfications. I already have two masters in nursing, 15 years critical care in nursing along with cath lab, scrub tech (long ago) and case management. Currently, I am a CPT in the Army and command Drill Sgs through the 1/354th TD. I applied to Several universities as a post masters FNP with DNP for my next step. I am just waiting on the acceptance letters to plan further. However, I have really been second guessing whether ‘just’ doing FNP or doing FNP with emergency or other options might be best. It is so good to see all the positive and supportive remarks about Urgent care and your personal view. I learned to suture long ago so no worries there, but I do also worry that I may have to further specialize. I think the Urgent Care is going to work out well for the beginning of my career.

  17. Hi Erin,

    I was wondering if you know why there aren’t certifications for NP’s in Urgent Care. I’ve been looking all over and can’t find one. I think it would be a helpful credential to add to my resume, what do you think?

  18. Hi Whitney,

    The best resume-builder if you want to work in urgent care is experience in a walk-in or urgent care clinic. I believe the Carolinas Health System also offers an urgent care residency which would be a great way to transition into NP practice. 

    I agree that a course or certification in urgent care would be helpful but I’m not aware of any aside from the residency at the moment!

  19. Why do university make it so difficult for NP students to find clinical sites? They absolutely refuse us to be able to go to Urgent Cares for clinicals. They force M-F Fam prac clinics (those most of the time don’t even hire NPs).

  20. I am a FNP with 5 years experience: 2 years in Internal Medicine and 3 years Adult Home Visits. I’ve been a RN for 29 years. My background has been ICU and ER. I am interested in working the Urgent Care Setting. All job postings that I come upon require experience. Do you have any suggestions to help me make this transition.

  21. Hi Felicia, 

    I would suggest applying to these positions. Your other experiences as a nurse practitioner, and as a nurse, do have some overlap with urgent care. Centering your continuing education around urgent care related topics will also help. For example, I would recommend attending a skills session so you can refresh skills like suturing and I&D that are commonly used in urgent care. 

  22. I have always admired urgent care nurses and wanted to know more about their lifestyle. It is interesting to learn that most of these practitioners only work three days a week. My sister is thinking about going into this field and I think it would be great for her because of the provided opportunities to help others.

  23. I would like to see more advances for Acute Care Nurse Practitioners. I would think that Urgent Care centers focus more on Acute problems and not primary. Therefore, ACNP could see adult patients along side of FNPs without seeing children.

  24. Hello Erin,
    Can you please write more about Urgent Care Nurse Practitioners? I work in an Immediate Care Center which also does family practice. I like the urgent care aspect of it. I’m looking forward to working in a facility which provides urgent care only. But I do not have much knowledge about this type of setting. You did a piece where you mentioned Urgent Care Nurse Practitioner salary, and also “A Day in the Life of an Urgent Care Nurse Practitioner,” but I could not find any more content. I like working in the Urgent Care setting also because it is not open overnights. My schedule is mostly stable. Anyways, I hope you do more articles on Urgent / Immediate Care Nurse Practitioners.

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