If you have ever research medical care providers in your area, you likely found at least medical walk in clinic that identified itself as an urgent care center. There are currently around 7,164 of these urgent care clinics in the United States, which specifically treat non-life-threatening ailments which require immediate medical attention. In your research, you may have noticed that the clinic boasted a number of benefits, such as after hours or even 24 hour urgent care, a wait time of 15 minutes or less, and of course, walk in services as opposed to scheduling an appointment. But as appealing as these advantages might sound, how do you know you can trust urgent care doctors and nurses with your or a family member’s health?
Like any other medical professional, urgent care doctors are required to undergo a rigorous qualification process in order to be certified to work at an urgent care center. According to the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS), in order qualify for the certification test, a candidate must be a graduate of a recognized school of medicine who holds a valid license to practice medicine and meets the ethical standards of the ABPS. In addition, the Board of Certification in Urgent Care Medicine (BCUCM) places strict requirements on required experience. A potential candidate must also have completed a residency training program and one of the following options:
- Full-time work in an urgent care clinic for two or more years. Otherwise, candidates should be currently practicing at an urgent care facility with at least 2,800 hours accumulated, with an additional residency in emergency room care or other specializations, and a certification in Emergency or Family Medicine.
- Two years as a full-time instructor in urgent care medicine, with a minimum of 2,800 hours of practice and instruction, combined with a residency in Emergency, Family or other specialty, and a board certification in this specialty.
- Five years of full-time work as an urgent care doctor, a minimum of 7,000 hours of practice, a residency in a specialty that includes a heavy focus on urgent care medicine, and a certification in Internal, Family, Pediatric or Occupational Medicine.
- A 12-month fellowship training program from a recognized medical school.
After qualifying for the certification exam, potential doctors will be required to submit a variety of documents, including recommendation letters and reports on ten cases in which they were the lead doctor practicing urgent medicine. A background check will also be completed. The exam consists of a computer-based written exam, which consists of 300 multiple choice questions. The test is offered several times a year, and doctors have only 3 chances to achieve a passing grade. After completing these rigorous requirements, many doctors go on to have thriving careers in urgent care medicine: an estimated 50% of all urgent care facilities in the U.S. are owned by board-certified doctors. This can be extremely helpful to many communities, as an estimated 27% of all emergency room visits could take place at local urgent care centers. For this reason, in the event of a non-critical medical situation, trust your nearest urgent care clinic.