Ambulatory Nursing: Why Consider Outpatient Centers

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By Maddie Torres-Gypsy Nurse Correspondent

October 12, 2020



Ambulatory Nursing: Why Travel Nurses Should Consider Outpatient Centers

This article sponsored by TNAA.

It is no surprise that there is an ongoing shift from inpatient to outpatient medical care. Many patients prefer to have their knee replacement surgeries, colonoscopies, and mammograms performed in an outpatient setting due to the associated ease, convenience, and price point. This increased demand by patients presents a perfect opportunity for travel nurses who are interested in ambulatory care.

What is ambulatory nursing?

Ambulatory nursing refers to registered nurses who work with patients outside of a hospital setting and tends to exclude overnight care. Although no further training is necessary, nurses can specialize to become an ambulatory care nurse (ACN). These facilities range from physicians’ offices to clinics, and even outpatient surgery centers. The work of an ambulatory nurse differs in that nurses care for patients in a more controlled environment with the potential for a higher volume of patients in one day. Although many of the facilities do not see patients in an emergency setting, nurses will tap into their clinical knowledge and apply it to a variety of health problems. Despite these differences, the work is still patient-focused and can provide an opportunity for nurses to develop specialized skills, particularly in surgical centers.

One of the fastest-growing nursing opportunities

Ambulatory surgery centers (ASC) are one of the fastest-growing healthcare opportunities for nurses. These facilities provide a unique experience for travel nurses who want authentic operating room experience while also preserving their flexibility to travel around the country. According to IBISWorld as of 2019, the ambulatory surgery industry employment was 168,702 and growing about 6% per year. In addition, a report done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics not only said that outpatient care centers are one of the fastest-growing industries but also projected growth around 49% from 2014-2024. With such high demand, more facilities are being opened across the country spanning Alaska all the way to California. Although there are currently over 100,00 ambulatory surgery centers, more growth is expected. This increase in job availability means that people have the opportunity to work in a desired location without having to sacrifice experience in a range of surgeries.

Growth in the ASC sector

Given the exponential growth in the ASC sector, more and more procedures are performed outside of a traditional hospital setting. These surgeries range in complexity and severity, and today, it is more likely that surgical procedures like joint replacements will be performed within the walls of an ambulatory surgery center. In 2017, 15% of all joint replacements were performed in an outpatient setting. This is predicted to increase to 32% by the end of 2020 and by the year 2026, more than half of all joint replacement surgeries will take place in an ASC. (Becker’s ASC Review). With such a substantial shift to outpatient facilities, travel nurses have an unprecedented opportunity to gain valuable surgical experience outside the hospital setting.

Nursing alternatives

Due to COVID-19, nurses are spending long, grueling hours working a hectic schedule and caring for very acute patients. Healthcare workers on the frontline have spent the last six months working in an utterly unpredictable and rather traumatizing environment. Given that reality, many nurses are looking for alternatives to a traditional hospital setting that would provide them with a bit more stability. As an ambulatory nurse at an outpatient surgery center, travel nurses would be able to fulfill their love of traveling while gaining experience in an outpatient operating room. With ambulatory care, nurses can work a more traditional “9 to 5” / Monday – Friday workweek. An assignment in one of these facilities could provide travel nurses with the consistency and stable schedule they have been lacking while working with COVID-19 patients in a hospital. In addition, travel nurses would be able to gain a sense of autonomy despite so much uncertainty. As a result, they may find that they are able to maintain a much better work-life balance and therefore feel less stressed.

Other advantages of working as an ambulatory nurse in an outpatient surgery center include:

• Very little “on call” hours
• Weekends are free
• Patients are less acute
• Patients have same-day surgeries
o Procedures include: biopsies, simple joint procedures, ACL reconstruction, carpal tunnel release, and rotator cuff repairs
• Most of the nurses working in this setting are Pre-op, OR, PACU, and OR Techs
o Other specialties exist as well (ex: endoscopy nurses and GI nurses)

If travel nurses are looking to hone their skills in various surgical operations, or just looking for something new, ambulatory nursing is a great alternative to a traditional hospital setting. There are jobs posted almost daily on resources like The Gypsy Nurse, Indeed, and Glassdoor. It is a common misconception that travel nurses are unable to work in these outpatient facilities as in reality there are assignments available all over the country. Travel nurses can continue to pursue their love of traveling while also gaining a more stable and reliable work schedule in Ambulatory Nursing.


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