Earlier this month, a woman was shopping at a CVS/pharmacy store in Maryland and noticed the store’s in-house walk-in health clinic. She approached Alissa Dye, DNP, FNP, the nurse practitioner on staff, with a complaint about a urinary tract infection. “She was miserable,” Dye says. “She couldn’t get an appointment with her primary care provider. But I was able to treat her, and she was able to go back to work that day.”
Dye regularly gets this kind of positive feedback from consumers. “My patients thank me all the time for being here,” she says. Like many retail-based health clinics, the CVS MinuteClinic where she works is open on weekends and after traditional work hours and offers walk-in appointments. That, she says, increases consumer access to high-quality, affordable primary care and eases demands on physicians in out-patient or emergency room settings.
Dye doesn’t treat everyone who walks in the door. When a consumer’s condition is unclear or requires certain prescriptions, she consults with the clinic’s on-call collaborating physician. She refers patients with complex or out-of-scope conditions to nearby urgent care centers or local primary care providers. And she encourages consumers without regular primary care providers to choose one from a list she gives them at the end of their visits “so they don’t just get sporadic care.”
The relationship goes the other way, too, she says. “We have a good relationship with a lot of primary care practices, and they actually refer patients to us.” Dye enjoys the benefits of retail-based clinics, too. A full-time clinician, Dye works three 11-hour shifts a week as well as some weekend shifts—a schedule that gives her time to meet her family responsibilities, teach at a nearby university, and volunteer with her state NP association. She has a short commute to work and spends more time with patients than she did in her previous nursing jobs.
She also enjoys the wide range of responsibilities she has at the clinic. As the only health care provider in the store, she handles everything from assessment to discharge. One of the biggest benefits, she says, is that she doesn’t bring work home with her at the end of the day. “When I’m done at the end of the day, I’m done.”