Working in urgent care with Kaiser Permanente Washington is a unique experience. We sat down with one of our urgent care nurses: Rachel a Charge Nurse with us for more than 10 years. She shared her experiences, tips for someone looking to join the care team, and how she’s able to use her skills to deliver total care to our members.
How did you become interested in health care?
My story started when I was a little girl. I’d always wrap up my dolls in bandages. A teacher at school said, “One day, I think she’s going to be a nurse. And she’s just practicing.” I just kind of clung to that and identified strongly with helping people and being someone who made people feel better.
Why did you choose to work at Kaiser Permanente?
I identify with the mission — I like managed health care. I came from outside managed care, where you refer people to primary care doctors, and they manage that on their own. Here, when I do referrals and follow-ups, they’re already within the system. I like how interconnected everything is. I also like the mission of giving back to the local community and investing in our neighbors — both in health care and with the buildings we’re constructing in the communities.
What made you choose Urgent Care?
I worked in emergency medicine for 17 years. I like urgent care because you’re away from the intensity of the Emergency Department, but you still keep the pace and skill set. I like the variety of the patients that I see. As a charge nurse, I see it as a strategy game. I manage the flow and resources of the department and I like the moving parts — and that every shift is different, and nothing is predictable. I really enjoy the go-with-the-flow aspect of urgent care.
What does a typical day look like for you?
The majority of my time I’m a charge nurse. This means I set up staff assignments for the day, taking into account each individual’s skill set. I really try hard to utilize people to their strengths.
My shift is 12 hours. I start by making my assignments, assessing the patients in the department, and understanding what resources they need so I can allocate them as evenly as possible across the care team. And I communicate with the physicians and PAs, so they’re resourced properly. I also work with the larger system to coordinate patient load across the system. It’s a lot of resource management.
What skills, abilities, and personal attributes are essential to success in your job or this field?
You have to be really flexible because every day is different. You also need to be very patient because we work with a diverse group of patients and staff members. You need to be open and accepting to working with people from different walks of life. You also need to be a great problem solver with a critical thinking skill set — whether it’s social or medical. This will help you work collaboratively with the team.
Can you describe the career growth opportunities you have been given at KP?
I’ve been offered more opportunities than I’ve taken. I like my work-life balance right now. You see, I work three twelves, am off for two days, work two more twelves and then I’m off for a week. There are opportunities for moving up into management. There are educational funds for a higher degree level. But I’m really happy where I am.
How has Kaiser Permanente supported you throughout your career?
It’s important for me to find satisfaction in my career. I want to feel like I’m adding to and helping build the environment we work in. Every management team I’ve worked with has been very open to suggestions and getting ground-level-up improvements. They’ve worked with the people doing the job to help make things work better.
What is one word to describe your experience working at Kaiser Permanente?
One word? “Diversity.” The populations I work with are very diverse in culture, ethnicity and lifestyle, and our approach to care takes this into account as well. And, since I have a neurodiversity like ADHD, Kaiser Permanente has embraced the creativity that comes with that and allowed me to be me.
What advice would you give someone who is considering this type of job (or field)?
Give yourself time to adapt and accommodate to a new environment and a new way of doing things. Coming from community emergency medicine into health managed emergency medicine is a big switch. Here, we’re focused on integrated care, so you may do things that seem very foreign. Like, you may be drawing blood for the primary care doctor because the patient is there. We’re doing the doctor a favor. Some people who are really die-hard ER people have a tough transition. Have an open mind to what integrated care is.
What makes Washington a great place to work and live?
I’ve lived other places, and Seattle gets a bad rap because of the rain. But it doesn’t rain all of the time. There’s a lot of diversity in the area, and there are a lot of opportunities to get plugged in. There are a variety of things to do. A lot of people really love the hiking and recreation in the area. I also like living in suburbia so we’re close to the city, and we can get out to see a Broadway play if we want.
Tell us about some of your favorite things to do in Washington outside of work.
I part-time home school my kids, but now that they’re older I’m less hands-on with that. I’m also involved in the youth group at my church, and on my weeks off, I do that a lot. I’m also a big board game fanatic, so I get together with friends and family and play those.
How has living in Washington affected your career journey?
I was a nurse in New Jersey and the culture is different here. There is a lot of great health care in Washington. A lot of high-end experts if you have complex medical conditions. We also have a Level One Trauma Center right down the street. You can find a lot of opportunities here for whatever you want to practice and learn. Somewhere smaller, you’d have fewer opportunities.
If you’re ready to join Rachel in an urgent care role with Kaiser Permanente Washington, discover even more reasons why you should build your career with us. Explore our careers!