The Pros and Cons of Nursing in a Walk-In Clinic

Do you enjoy working with patients of all ages? Do you relish the fact — or dread the uncertainty — that your next patient might walk in with a broken arm or severe chest pain? Consider these pros and cons of working in an urgent-care clinic to determine if this is where you want to send your next job application.

Pro and Con: A constant sense of urgency

Certain personalities are drawn to particular clinical specialty settings, says Cathy Swenson, Senior Recruiting Manager for Kelly Healthcare Resources in Troy, Mich. “Some RNs love the urgency of not knowing what’s coming through the door next, the intensity of the clinical practice and quick turnaround,” she says.

Pro and Con: Variety all day long

Walk-in clinics can host patients with a multitude of illnesses. Some may simply need a sports physical or a flu shot; others may have serious symptoms but can’t afford to go to a traditional medical practice or hospital emergency department. You also have to live with the fact that folks will come in with serious illnesses that you cannot treat at your facility.

Pro: Critical-care experience counts here.

Traditionally, urgent-care clinics are stand alone facilities. Nurses need to have clinical experience as much of their work is autonomous. Urgent-care clinics prefer to hire staff with at least one year of critical-care experience. “That’s one year of current experience,” quips Heidi McAllister, RN, Recruiter at Pro Health Staffing in Seattle. “Not one year from 10 years ago.”

Pro: Advanced training will help you get the job.

Along with hands-on clinical experience, advanced training and certifications provide the additional expertise to practice in autonomous patient settings. Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS), Basic Life Support (BLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certifications are always good to have. “It makes you much more marketable if you can work on both mom and baby,” McAllister says.

Con: You’ll never really get to know your patients.

Patient relationships provide personal and professional rewards. Clinical settings such as urgent care provide a quick fix, meaning you’ll never really get to know your patient and their family. If you want long-term relationships with your patients, a position with a family practice, a specialty practice or in a public health office might give you the rewards of knowing the beneficiaries of your care.

By Dona DeZube

©, Dice Holdings Inc., 2011



  1. BY Annonymous says:

    I am an R.N. in an urgent care setting. I have been a nurse for a little over three years and the past 2-1/2 years are in urgent care. Before you consider taking a position in an urgent care setting, think about your long term goals. It will have a big impact on your nursing career. I was recently told by HR from a hospital that this kind of experience does not count in nursing because it is like being a glorified medical assistant. If you are a new nurse, don't!!!! Go directly to a hospital and stay there for a minimum of 2 years. Then you will have more choices with your career. Do not jeopardize what you worked so hard for. It is heart wrenching to say the least.