Ironically, since urgent care is considered lower acuity than the emergency room, it is rare to encounter a registered nurse legal nurse consultant (LNC) familiar with the ins and outs of the capabilities and limitations of an urgent care. Certainly, true emergencies do present to the urgent care, and it is the responsibility of the staff is to ship them out via emergency transport as fast as they can! Urgent care facilities are not fully equipped to manage these conditions themselves beyond stabilization.
Since urgent care is considered ambulatory care–where sniffles, STDs, and nagging dry coughs abound–nurses with extensive clinical experience in this setting may not always consider themselves to be among the rockstars of the nursing profession as a whole. Sadly this common self-perception may prevent many of these would-be consulting experts from offering their services to the legal profession.
Most urgent care facilities, though often medically directed by a physician, are staffed and team-led by–you guessed it–providers such as physician assistants or nurse practitioners. First and foremost, the urgent care provider is expected and has a duty to recognize true emergencies quickly, stabilize the patient to the best of their ability with the resources they have, notify emergency services, and obtain emergency medical transport to a higher level of care. Failure to do so in a timely manner constitutes a breach of the standard of care that results in delays in treatment that can have catastrophic outcomes.
RN legal nurse consultants (LNCs) with experience in the emergency department will often offer their services in evaluating cases where an urgent care provider missed the mark. However, an emergency department nurse may over-estimate what a reasonable and prudent provider in an urgent care facility should and does know, and what resources they have access to in that setting. This blindspot in the emergency room RN consulting expert leaves your case open to objections and arguments of opposing counsel.
For such cases, a nurse practitioner consultant to the legal profession with experience as a midlevel in the ambulatory urgent care setting is better able to accurately define what the standards of care are, such as diagnostic capabilities, differential diagnosis, and empirical provider-level decision-making at that level of care.
The most common type of medical negligence situation in an urgent care setting is failure to recognize the need for a higher level of care, such as with symptoms of pulmonary embolism, stroke, heart attack, or other deadly medical conditions which can lead to the worst outcome of all: wrongful death. Trust a nurse practitioner with urgent care experience to help you isolate the issues in these cases.
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MSN, APRN, FNP-C, NP-CLP
Alicia is a Family Nurse Practitioner and Integrative Health Practitioner and a founding Nurse Practitioner Consultant to the Legal Profession with Discovery NP Legal Consultants. With almost two decades of varied experience in the medical field, including significant work as an RN in the highly litigated areas of ICU and ER. Her experience as an NP has been in the Urgent Care setting and as an independent practitioner in Integrative Medicine.