Is an Urgent Care Facility Like the ER?


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When you need specialized care, do you find an urgent care center or go to your trusted doctor? A life-threatening emergency of course necessitates a trip to the hospital, especially after hours. But for other, less pressing concerns, it does make sense to seek medical care from a doctor you know and trust, and who knows you and your body’s idiosyncrasies.

What is Urgent Care?

An urgent care clinic is not quite an emergency room. It is a walk-in center for illnesses or injuries that need immediate attention, but are not so severe as to require a trip to the emergency room. For reference, a heart attack, uncontrollable bleeding from a wound, extreme fever, or pregnancy-related problem (and a few unnamed) are all considered an emergency. In any of these cases, go to the emergency room right away.

If, on the other hand, you feel you need to be seen by a doctor in the next few hours, but the time does not fall within your doctor’s office hours, an urgent care center may be your next stop. About 91% of urgent care facilities are open after 7:00pm, and two out of five stay open until 9:00pm or later.

The Emergency Room Isn’t That Bad, Right?

It is a well-known fact that the emergency room nurses focus on triage, a method of determining who needs to be seen in what order to maximize everyone’s chance of survival. Put simply, a patient with a gunshot wound will need to be seen by a doctor before the person with a spider bite. The Urgent Care Association of America, or UCAA, found that 57% of patients only waited 15 minutes before being seen by a doctor. On average, 80% of visits are under 60 minutes. That sure beats waiting in the ER in the middle of the night.

Be Prepared For Anything.

Unfortunately, about 48% of the patients in the emergency room are there because their preferred physician’s office was closed, at least according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Why do they do this to themselves, when they know they are in for a long wait? Because we are not doctors, and it is better to be safe, to be cautious, rather then reckless with our health. But thankfully there is another alternative to the ER. Find out where the nearest urgent care clinic is in your area, so that the next time you need to see a doctor after hours, you know where to go.

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