When to Visit the ER or Urgent Care


Any number of health problems can arise in daily life for children or adults, and knowing what medical center to visit and when can save a life. Urgent care is a common form of medical treatment and is the best option for many ailments, while some of the more serious conditions or injuries call for visiting a hospital’s ER. Other times, seeing one’s personal physician or pediatrician is the best route. Knowing where to go can keep someone in the best of health.

Urgent Care Centers

Urgent care can be found at any of the thousands of urgent care clinics, walk in clinics, and retail clinics across the United States. These are often the most convenient option for a number of reasons. Around three million Americans visit urgent care clinics every single year, and on average, three patients will be attended to each hour, meaning short wait times, and 85% of these clinics are open every day of the week. Thousands of them are scattered in the United States alone, many of which operate independently. Retail clinics, in particular, are built into major grocers such as Target, Wal-Mart, and Walgreens, and offer prescription drugs and basic medical care. These centers are often easy to find since they are located in major retailers, which also means ample parking. Often, finding any urgent care center can mean searching “24 hour urgent care near me” into a computer or smart phone.

Rarely are doctors or fully trained physicians present at urgent care facilities; instead, physician assistants and nurses are common staff, and they have the equipment and training for non life-threatening ailments of many kinds. In fact, four out of five urgent care centers can treat bone fractures, and nearly all of them can treat conditions such as rashes, colds and the flu, ankle and wrist sprains, food allergies, and broken fingers and toes. However, more life threatening problems that are worth an ER visit cannot usually be treated at urgent care clinics, and in this case, a patient will be referred to a hospital where trained staff with the right equipment can take care of the problem. A disadvantage of urgent care clinics is that no one on staff will have detailed medical records or histories of any patient, unlike with a personal physician.

The ER

A visit to the ER is essential for more severe or life-threatening injuries that an urgent care clinic cannot handle. Broken arms and legs, eye or head injuries, difficulty breathing, and bullet or stab wounds all call for an ER visit. Chest pain and respiratory problems call for an ER because they could be part of a cardiac event or damaged lungs, and an urgent care clinic cannot handle these problems. Often, patients who visit the ER have conditions that an urgent care clinic could handle instead, and this can be costly. The ER is often much more expensive than an urgent care center, so a prospective patient is advised to determined exactly what medical facility is right for their needs. At an ER, doctors and fully trained physicians are on hand with medical equipment to handle any major injury or life-threatening condition.

Physicians and Pediatricians

More specialized medicine than what is offered at an urgent care facility can be found with a person’s private physician. This doctor has the detailed medical history and needs of each of his or her patients, although a physician cannot be visited at any time like at a walk in clinic. Instead, appointments are set up, often by phone, where the patient receives care and checkups. When a personal physician is not available or if the medical condition is urgent, going to an urgent care center or ER is advisable instead. A pediatrician is similar; this is a physician who deals with younger patients, those aged from newborn through teenage years, as well as the common injuries and illnesses of those in this age group (such as ear infections).

Leave a Reply