Wal-Mart plans to open 400 walk-in clinics within its stores over the next two years, creating new employment opportunities for practitioners and physician assistants. The first clinics are slated to be operating by the end of April in Little Rock, Ark., and Atlanta, with others to follow in Dallas by the summer and the rest throughout the country by 2010. Wal-Mart already has 75 clinics operating in 12 states.

The sites, which will operate under the “Clinic at Wal-Mart” brand, will be open seven days a week and will offer screenings, vaccinations, diagnostic tests, basic physical exams, and treatment for such everyday problems as sore throat, headache, diarrhea, sinus infection, and earache. Some clinics will accept health insurance, and a price list for services will be posted prominently at all locations.

Electronic medical records rather than paper documentation will be used. The facilities will be managed by local hospitals and other organizations, including convenient-care provider RediClinic Services, based in Houston. According to RediClinic, patient care will be delivered by providers who are licensed and certified to diagnose, treat, and prescribe. RediClinic has traditionally used nurse practitioners in this capacity, but physician assistants have staffed similar operations. (RediClinic offers training for clinicians who choose to work in this environment.)

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The clinics will also provide good experience for clinicians with an entrepreneurial streak. “The organization, maintenance, and responsibilities for operating a clinic will provide insight into potential future roles as independent contractors or owners of their own practices,” says Rosemary Goodyear, EdD, RNC, FNP, of Nurse Consultant Associates in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Calif. Dr. Goodyear, who used to own her own practice, is not involved in the Wal-Mart venture.

According to a recent survey, 34% of Americans are willing to use a retail clinic, and 16% already have visited one.