Also known as an "outpatient care center," an ambulatory care center is a medical care facility that provides services on an outpatient basis. These include intervention, consultation, diagnosis and treatment services. Some ambulatory care centers also offer advanced medical technology and specialized medical services that is greater or equal to successful hospital facilities.

Types of Ambulatory Centers

Although they are often lumped together as one facility, there are actually a number of different types of ambulatory centers. First, urgent care clinics provide limited medical services for minor injuries as well as radiography, diagnostic and laboratory services. Most modern urgent care clinics belong to larger health care systems and for-profit companies. These facilities are a fantastic way to extend the marketing brand of the health care systems. Some hospitals work with smaller urgent care clinics to establish collaborative partnerships that allow the hospitals to expand their network reach and services.

A traditional ambulatory care center can also be part of an emergency department within the larger health care system. They offer a full range of medical services, including standard observation beds, imaging modalities and laboratory capabilities. Large corporations such as production and manufacturing facilities typically host work-based clinics, while licensed physicians run primary care clinics for for-profit, private organizations. As entrepreneurial spirit and drive increase among new health care providers and physicians, these types of care centers are becoming more popular.

Working Within an Ambulatory Center

Nurses employed by ambulatory care centers provide a number of professional services to patients. They effectively implement improvement programs, safely conduct technical procedures and prioritize incoming patients. Ambulatory care nurses also continuously evaluate and change patient care priorities based on the facility's established timelines and departmental priorities as well as resource availability and patient preference and need. They analyze a patient's emotional or physical health in order to prevent, correct or reduce medical risks and advocate for patients to achieve the most successful outcomes possible. Ambulatory nurses also take action and make decisions based on organizational protocols, practice standards, experiential intuition, past successful tasks, medical logic and scientific principles. When necessary, they seek consultation or supervision, using both external and internal resources to prevent and solve patient issues.

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Moving up in the employment chain, ambulatory care administrators are responsible for monitoring and altering patient care plans based on submitted research and incoming data. They also routinely review current departmental goals, performances and outcomes and establish new procedures when necessary. Administrators may execute medical interventions to achieve medical goals for patients such as dismissing a parent's religious preference regarding a medical procedure in order to save a minor's life. Ambulatory administrators must follow federal and state laws to maintain effective, quality and safe care for all patients at all times. They may adjust expectations, deadlines and goals according to resource availability, program efficiency and patient safety.

Ambulatory centers offer a broad range of services to assist patients and their families during medical treatments and emergencies. Ambulatory care nurses and administrators work together to ensure that the patients' needs are met and that the staff is following protocol through each step of the treatment. Due to the technology, procedures and services provided within all areas of the facility, the ambulatory care center is a critical part of the health care medical system.