Retail Clinics: Guidelines for Family Nurse Practitioners

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A smiling family nurse practitioner.

Patients who need fast access to medical services are increasingly turning to walk-in, or retail, clinics for assistance. In many states, the clinics are run by family nurse practitioners (FNPs) who have the training and skills to treat patients from infancy through older adulthood.

Retail clinics are filling gaps in primary care medicine across the United States and transforming health care delivery to make it faster, more accessible, and less expensive. These clinics carry the endorsement of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), which acknowledges that they can be a practical option for patients who might not otherwise be able to receive timely care.

The market for walk-in clinics is expected to reach more than $8 billion by 2027, which is a projected 10.2% increase since 2018, according to a market research study by the Insight Partners. The growth will bring even more opportunities for FNPs, who will be an integral part of this growth.

The physician staffing firm Merritt Hawkins notes the role’s importance in its 2021 review of the health care workforce. Not only does it acknowledge that advanced practice nurses like FNPs provide the bulk of patient care dispensed in retail centers, it also predicts they will continue to play a more active patient care role in a post-pandemic environment. Retail medical clinics are positioned to provide ample opportunities for registered nurses (RNs) looking to advance their careers by earning a post-master’s nursing certificate and working as FNPs.

What Are Retail Clinics?

Retail clinics are walk-in clinical areas within retail stores or outlets. These outlets can include pharmacies, malls, supermarkets and department stores. They are designed to treat acute ailments that are minor and common, such as colds, sore throats or the flu. Larger clinics may offer broader services, such as routine lab tests and chronic disease management. Because they are built to accept walk-ins, prearranged appointments are not required.

Retail clinics tend to be open for longer hours than traditional medical practices, and are often open on evenings and weekends. They are not meant to replace traditional health care facilities for routine care, but they do offer convenience for patients who need to deal with minor issues quickly.

Standards for FNP Practice in Retail Clinics

The AANP reports that FNPs are vital to providing care in retail clinics. To ensure FNPs and patients are provided with the best health care environments, the AANP developed these clinic standards:

  • NPs who work in retail clinics must have all the appropriate education and certification and be recognized to practice as NPs in the state where the clinic is.
  • NPs must be consulted in the early stages of the clinic development about policies, practice guidelines, and operational procedures.
  • NPs must be part of the management team establishing and running the clinic.
  • The clinic’s functions should be based on the FNP’s full scope of practice and not limit the NP’s ability to provide evidence-based treatments and referrals to the appropriate providers.
  • NPs must be provided with resources to maintain health and medical records for all the clinic’s patients in accordance with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations.
  • The facility must be adequately equipped to provide primary care services, maintain patient privacy, and meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) standards.
  • NPs must have the resources to establish ongoing quality-assurance programs and quality measures.
  • NPs must be able to maintain high professional standards in all clinic activities.
  • NPs must receive competitive salaries and benefits and have the opportunity to attend professional development activities and meetings.

The Convenient Care Association, the national trade association for retail clinics, also identified the following competencies for retail health providers:

  • Providers must employ a patient-centered commitment to support continuity of care within neighborhoods. Providers must use evidence-based practices to assess and determine the most likely differential
  • Providers must focus on customer service by creating a warm, friendly, and inviting atmosphere that engages patients. They also must adjust their communication styles based on patient needs and seek to support patient needs.
  • Providers must be able to manage clinical and non-clinical duties throughout the day while providing high-quality health care. They should be proficient with information management systems and technology.
  • Providers must demonstrate the knowledge and skill to manage a profitable business, including managing budgets, inventory, and scheduling. They must have a broad understanding of health insurance.
  • Providers must be able to work independently as problem solvers, critical thinkers, and patient advocates. They must be able to lead teams as well.

Benefits of Working in Retail Health

The shortage of primary care providers has opened a world of opportunities for RNs seeking MSN careers. For FNPs, working in retail health provides plenty of opportunities, including:

1. Greater Autonomy

Most retail clinics are staffed with one provider who serves as the primary decision-maker. In states where NPs are not permitted to practice autonomously, an on-call physician is available if needed. Otherwise, most NPs have the authority to render a medical diagnosis and prescribe medications.

2. Establishing Patient Relationships

FNPs have an opportunity to establish rapport with repeat patients because the community-based services allow for one-on-one interactions. In some cases, FNPs work at a single clinic location to build patient relationships.

3. Predictable Schedules

Because clinics are open on a set schedule, FNPs have an opportunity to work predictable hours. FNPs can choose their work hours and vacation time as needed.

4. Practice to the Full Extent of Education

In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended that all RNs practice to the full extent of their education and training. Working as an FNP in a retail clinic reaches beyond the IOM’s recommendation.

Pursue a Career in a Critical Field

The expected growth in the number of retail clinics nationwide will provide FNPs with expanded opportunities to provide quality care. By applying their knowledge and skills to help individuals in need of treatment for acute yet non-urgent issues in a unique setting, FNPs who choose to pursue this clinical path can be instrumental in shaping the concept of care delivery in the future.

Duquesne University’s online post-master’s nursing certificates can prepare you to pursue this rewarding role. Our Family (Individual Across the Lifespan) Nurse Practitioner Post-Master’s Certificate teaches advanced care delivery expertise with a focus on primary care, diagnosis, and treatment plans for patients of all ages. Learn how Duquesne can help you take control of your nursing career.

Recommended Reading

Helping Patients Get the Medications They Need

How Nurse Leaders Can Address Discrimination in Nursing

The Importance of Diversity in FNP Practice


American Academy of Family Physicians, Retail Clinics

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Standards for Nurse Practitioner Practice in Retail-Based Clinics

BioSpace, “Retail Clinics Market to Reach US $8,108.98 Mn by 2027 Global Analysis and Forecasts by The Insight Partners”

County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, Retail Clinics

The Insight Partners, “Retail Clinics Market 2027 By Location, Ownership Type, Application, and Geography”

Merritt Hawkins, “2021 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives”