Types of Providers Who Work at Urgent Care

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Young female doctor or nurse practitioner smiling with young African American girl patient
  • You may know urgent care centers offer a cost-effective alternative to emergency rooms for minor medical emergencies and health issues. Yet you may wonder who works at urgent care. Are they as qualified as the clinicians at the local emergency room? The short answer is: yes. From MDs to X-ray technicians, personnel at your local urgent care deliver professional care for all types of non-life-threatening emergencies and medical conditions. Depending on your medical needs, you may encounter one of these healthcare providers at an urgent care center.

  • 1
    Physician (MD or DO)
    Young African American female doctor or physician assistant smiling with female patient

    At nearly ever urgent care center, a physician (MD or DO—doctor of osteopathic medicine) directs the care provided to every patient. All MDs are qualified to deliver medical care to people of all ages. Urgent care doctors often possess additional training in emergency medicine or family medicine. This equips them with the education and background necessary to diagnose and treat the types of medical conditions they might encounter in an urgent care setting. Some doctors may be board certified specifically in urgent care medicine, internal medicine, or family practice. If a physician does not directly provide your care in the clinic, he or she likely supervises the clinician caring for you.

  • 2
    Nurse Practitioner
    Young African American nurse or nurse practitioner in pink scrubs smiling

    Nurse practitioners (NPs) are registered nurses who have completed extensive additional education and training to earn a master’s or doctoral practice degree, such as family nurse practitioner (FNP). These clinicians deliver high-level patient care under the supervision of a physician. Some nurse practitioners who work in urgent care clinics may hold qualifications to provide specialty care, such as women’s care. Regardless of their specialty, NPs are qualified to deliver a broad range of care to patients of all ages. NPs have full practice autonomy in some states, which means the nurse practitioner does not require physician supervision to diagnose and treat patients, including medication prescription.

  • 3
    Physician Assistant (PA)
    Smiling female Caucasian doctor or physician assistant

    Physician assistants (PAs) complete an average of 27 months of medical education and 2,000 hours of clinical rotations to achieve a master’s degree prior to becoming licensed. Many PA programs mirror the early part of an MD education, only without the subsequent internship and residency components. PAs practice under the supervision of a physician to provide care across the age spectrum. In the urgent care setting, PAs may diagnose and treat illnesses, suture wounds, and apply casts or splints to broken bones, though they are qualified to deliver any type of care necessary to the situation.

  • 4
    Registered Nurse
    friendly nurse examining pregnant woman

    At your primary care provider’s office, a medical assistant (MA) might take your vital signs and record your symptoms. In an urgent care clinic, however, it’s possible a registered nurse (RN) will perform these tasks. Nurses must pass a rigorous licensing exam to earn the right to practice, and these clinicians are qualified to make high-level assessments of patient condition, administer treatments, dress wounds and perform other direct patient care tasks that unlicensed staff members are not allowed to provide.

  • 5
    X-ray Technician
    Female Caucasian x-ray technician looking at chest x-rays

    If you go to urgent care with a suspected broken bone, you likely will meet an X-ray technician. More properly called “radiologic technologists,” these professionals are educated in all aspects of medical imaging, including patient positioning, radiation protocols, basic patient care, and much more. Registered X-ray techs must complete a formal education program and pass a certification test. They are qualified to administer X-rays, CT scans, bone density tests, and many other types of medical imaging studies.

  • 6
    Medical Assistant
    Young male African American doctor or physician assistant smiling in hospital

    Many urgent care centers employ medical assistants to take vital signs, obtain your medical history, and generally assist the physician, nurse practitioner, or PA providing your care. Many medical assistants pursue certification from a national board or society. Medical assistants may also help you with insurance and billing issues during your visit. While not licensed to deliver nursing or medical care, medical assistants are skilled professionals in urgent care and other healthcare settings.

Was this helpful?
  1. What is Urgent Care Medicine? American Academy of Urgent
    Care Medicine. https://aaucm.org/what-is-urgent-care-medicine/
  2. Urgent Care FAQ. Urgent Care Association. https://www.ucaoa.org/mpage/faq
  3. What is a PA? American Academy of PAs[B1] .
  4. What are Radiologic Technologists? American Society of
    Radiologic Technologists. https://www.asrt.org/main/careers/careers-in-radiologic-technology/who-are-radiologic-technologists
  5. Board
    of Certification in Urgent Care Medicine. American Board of Physician
    Specialties. https://www.abpsus.org/urgent-care

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Oct 14
View All Urgent Care Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.