The Perks of Being an Urgent Care Physician
A short while ago, when I was working full-time in the emergency department of our local hospital, we would get those days when it seemed we just could not keep up with the flow of patients. In between evaluating a chest pain patient for a possible heart attack or a patient struggling to catch her breath, a chart would pop up in the queue for someone with a scratchy throat and cough or a rash that had been present for months. A collective sigh would go out with thoughts of: “Why is this an emergency?” or “Can’t people see that we’re busy caring for those whose lives are in danger?” Yes, we understand that you also don’t feel well, but can’t your primary care doctor take care of this problem?
Well, unfortunately the answer often is “no.” Either the patient has no private physician, or no insurance, or has called her primary care physician’s office and has been told that the doctor is booked and can’t see her until next week. All of which leads her to go to the place of last resort; the safety net of the American healthcare system, the place where no one is turned away, where everyone will be seen eventually, the emergency department.
Likewise, primary care physicians are increasingly busy caring for the chronic health problems of an aging population and have difficulty squeezing in even someone with a minor emergency. And with the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) now in effect, the demand for primary care physicians is expected to increase dramatically as the previously uninsured receive coverage. And so it appears that a niche is developing in the healthcare industry to provide a place for the treatment of minor emergencies — the urgent care center. One need only look around at the number of these facilities starting up to see that there’s a demand for this type of service. And who better to staff these centers than emergency physicians?
The Advantages of a Career in Urgent Care
Unlike working in the emergency department where shifts vary day by day, working in an urgent care center allows for scheduling stability. Whether you are preparing for a family or for retirement, a career in urgent care can provide the stability your lifestyle requires.
While working as emergency physician, doctors are faced with new challenges every day. They work with patients of varying ages and ailments. Their need for change is constantly fulfilled. Urgent care can provide that same variety. From infants to teens to adults to seniors, working as an urgent care physician allows doctors to see a broad range of patients and treat a broad range of ailments from the common cold, broken bones and lacerations to performing physicals and administering vaccinations.
With urgent care centers gaining popularity, the need for physicians to staff the centers is increasing too. Steady hours, variety and more time to spend with patients make working as an urgent care physician a perfect choice for any physician. Keeping up on suturing skills, treating patients in a less stressful environment and developing a stronger bond with patients are just a few of the reasons emergency physicians enjoy working in the urgent care sector, and in our practice, Emergency Medical Associates, a portion of our partners take shifts at local urgent care centers. Some will decide to stay.
I loved working in the emergency department; it’s where I honed my practice and gained the knowledge and experience that shapes my practice today. But now as a full-time urgent care physician, I am equally challenged and fulfilled – but with better hours!
Kurt Perry, MD, joined Emergency Medical Associates in 1997. He is board-certified in emergency medicine and a 2013 New Jersey Monthly “Top Doctor.” He completed his residency at Monmouth Medical Center, Long Branch, N.J.