We've all been there: We're in need of birth control, an STD test or something else seems a little ~funky~, and we know we need to see someone about it.
But after calling your gyno to try to set up an appointment, you learn she's booked up for weeks. What other options do you have now?
Well, believe it or not, you could nip these issues in the bud while perusing the aisles of your local CVS Pharmacy. Yes, you are all now masters of multi-tasking.
In all seriousness, though, you may not have realized that select CVS and Target locations actually have a built-in MinuteClinic, a retail medical clinic, where certified clinicians offer quick health care services you didn't even know you needed.
Just in time for National Women's Health Week (which should be EVERY WEEK, my ladies), Meredith M. Dixon, FNP-BC, MSN, MBA, MinuteClinic Associate Chief Nurse Practitioner Officer, spoke to Elite Daily to explain how CVS' MinuteClinic is helping women prioritize their health:
What kinds of women's sexual health services does MinuteClinic offer?
"So in terms of women's health, we see women who present for any type of acute illness as well as other services — things that could be centered around wellness or prevention," Dixon says.
In terms of specific sexual health services women might be seeking out, she elaborates,
They might be looking for ideas around contraceptive care. They might be inquiring about vaccines that are related to women's health, particularly the HPV vaccine. They might want to know if they're pregnant. They might be presenting with a UTI or bladder infection or a yeast infection. And just recently, we've been working with the CDC to think about ways we can make an impact in the area around STDs.
Despite offering quick services, Dixon also explains that part of a MinuteClinic clinician's approach to treating a patient is "looking at the patient holistically," and assessments are "based on that individual's patient history."
Specifically, how does MinuteClinic approach birth control and STD tests?
Essentially, getting birth control by popping into a MinuteClinic is just as accessible, EDUCATIONAL and personalized as a gyno visit.
While you do have to be 18 years or older to get birth control without a parent or guardian present (though, the rules may differ depending on your state), Dixon says the "board-certified family nurse practitioners or physician assistants" at MinuteClinic will help a woman choose a birth control based on "what makes sense for them in their plan."
In terms of what kind of birth control options are offered, she explains,
We can offer either a pill, a patch, a ring, or an injection. It just really depends on how active the person is. Some of their medical history might keep us from prescribing one versus another.
When it comes to STDs/STIs, Dixon says that "understanding safe sex practices and talking to them about those sorts of things are important." And MinuteClinic understands the importance of "being able to open up that dialogue and ask the questions," especially for women.
About STD testing, she explains,
[We can tell them], 'We can screen you for these sort of things and make it easy.' Particularly around chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis — those are tests that we can offer now ... So they could come in and talk to us about that, and we could order those screening tests.
How does this differ from a regular OB-GYN visit?
If you're a big worrywart (like me), and some professional reassurance that something awful isn't wrong with you would be ideal (again, like me), a MinuteClinic clinician can help you out with things like pregnancy tests, screenings and other general wellness checkups.
However, in the case that you learn there might be something you really should have checked out by your gyno or by a primary care doctor (like an actual pelvic exam), MinuteClinic will point you in the right direction.
"We're not set up to do pelvic exams like you would find typically in an OB-GYN setting," Dixon explains.
She adds, "Assessing what's really going on with that person at that moment in time will help us get them to where they might need to be in a quicker fashion."
Dixon also offers the example,
If someone just found out they're pregnant, and we give them that news, then we would recommend, 'Hey, you need to get in to your primary care or your OB within this certain time frame.' We try to give them education around what the timeframe would be based on what their personal situation is.
How does MinuteClinic promote the ease of access to women's health care?
In the particularly tumultuous health care climate currently, a pressing issue for a lot of women is how accessible health care services will be, especially given how many women already have trouble getting in to see an OB-GYN or accessing women's health centers.
Dixon emphasizes that MinuteClinic makes "accessible, affordable and approachable" service its top priority.
And no, this isn't just for women in their late 20s and 30s, as Dixon says MinuteClinic also caters to younger women who might otherwise have a more difficult time securing an appointment with an OB-GYN. She explains,
When you think about some of the ages where women start to get their pelvic exam, it's typically done when they are age 21 and up. If you have a female that might be between 18 and 21, I've even heard that they've had challenges getting in to be seen and just wanting to talk about sexual health or contraceptive care — those sorts of things. I think we fill that gap pretty nicely.
With MinuteClinic locations all over the US, you pretty much have no excuse NOT to pop in for a quick evaluation, especially with their digital services.
"We have introduced on our website the ability for patients to hold their places in line," Dixon says, adding, "And in the future, we're rolling out their ability to book that appointment [online] as well." You can also hold your place in line with the CVS Pharmacy app.
MinuteClinics are also accessible every day of the week AND on nights and weekends, so if you're prone to mid-afternoon health freak-outs on Saturdays, you can literally just walk into CVS or Target to ease your worries.
And if you're concerned about cost, don't fret. "We're a network with all the major insurance plans, so most insurances are accepted. And if people don't have insurance, we certainly find ourselves to be much lower cost than other options," Dixon says.
Now, there's no excuse not to prioritize your health. And if you needed any more convincing, I'm pretty sure when Destiny's Child sang, "Ladies, leave your man at home," they meant to finish it with "'cause we're going to CVS so we can stay on top of our health."
Beyoncé's always right, ladies.