by John R. Fischer
, Senior Reporter | August 25, 2023
As part of a restructuring strategy, urgent care company MedExpress will lay off all registered nurses at its nearly 150 locations across the U.S.
The company, based in West Virginia and owned by UnitedHealth's Optum, says the move is part of a plan to revamp its staffing model and reduce costs, and that there would be no RNs at its sites as of September 7, according to local news outlet, WSAZ/Channel 3 News
The news was made public on August 11 and met with shock and anger by its registered nurses. According to a petition on Change.org that has already amassed over 3,000 signatures calling on the company to reverse its decision, medical assistants would be taking over RN duties.
“There will be that one time that they’re going to wish they had someone with my skill set, my fellow RNs, and the patient is going be the one who pays for that,” an RN told WSAZ/Channel 3 News, asking to remain anonymous out of fear of not receiving a severance package.
According to the petition, which was organized by MedExpress providers, eliminating all RNs puts patient safety at risk because it places their duties on the shoulders of medical assistants and other staff members who lack the training needed to effectively perform these jobs.
While a “valuable resource” in clinics, medical assistants do not have the “expertise” and “scope of practice” to perform these tasks, which include but are not limited to reconstituting and administering medications and starting IV lines, says the petition. They are instead “best utilized for standing orders and direct supervision.”
There is also no time to train employees before September 7, and the decision will lead “a majority of providers to resign,” as well as a “significant decrease in patient volume,” said the organizers.
“We are not willing to risk our licenses for a corporation that has shown nurses, the heart of our centers, how little they appreciate them. This will force either center closures or high utilization of very expensive locum providers who will not have sufficient training or capability to run the facilities the way we currently do,” said the petition.
In a statement, MedExpress defended its decision, saying that it “continually assesses and evolves our staffing models to better reflect urgent care industry standards,” and that it would “support team members affected with job placement resources” and if possible, place them in other roles.