Emergency Room or Urgent Care?

Should You Go to the Emergency Room or Urgent Care?

Sudden illnesses or injuries often occur with no warning. One evening while preparing dinner, you accidentally cut your thumb. The pain is so intense, and it seems like a deep cut, so you don’t know whether you need to visit an emergency room or visit an urgent care center. Such situations are disturbing, and it’s hard to think right due to the stressful conditions.

You first need to determine the level of medical care you need to get appropriate help quickly. Again, you need to understand the difference between various care facilities to get the right treatment and save time and money. Read on to gain more insights.

Table of Contents

Differences Between Walk-In, Urgent Care And Emergency Rooms

As the healthcare sector continues to evolve, there are various options that you can consider to get medical attention, depending on the severity of your situation. The cost of making the wrong decision is exceptionally high. Here is a quick overview of the different health facilities to help you make an informed decision. A walk-in clinic is a place where you can visit a medical practitioner without an appointment. However, in some cases, the urgent care and emergency room hospitals also offer walk-in services. The walk-in clinics serve quick, less complicated medical needs. On the other hand, if you need medical care due to minor injuries that can’t wait for an appointment or when your doctor is unavailable, you can seek urgent care services. They are also walk-in clinics that handle after–hours care for non-threatening illnesses that don’t require emergency attention. Urgent care can treat more severe conditions than walk-in clinics. Emergency rooms deal with significant health problems that require immediate attention. Such facilities operate around the clock to prevent death or severe impairment of the patients.

When To Go To The ER

If you have a life-threatening condition, you need to go straight to the nearest emergency room. Severe shortness of breath could be an indication of cardiovascular issues that requires urgent attention. Also, allergic reactions that result in swelling of the tongue can compromise your breathing, so seek emergency help. Again, if you experience severe chest pains, it could signal a heart attack, which deserves instant attention. Further, visit an emergency room if you notice sudden paralysis, confusion, or troubled communication. Emergency rooms have CT scans and other machines that can diagnose stroke. If you experience fever, severe abdominal pain, nausea, fatigue, and stomach swelling, you could be suffering from gastrointestinal issues. If left unattended, gall balder attack, pancreatitis, and appendicitis can cause significant complications. Again if you are dealing with life-threatening injuries like continuous bleeding, broken limb, rush to an emergency room. Note that non-urgent issues will only lead to unnecessary testing, excessive healthcare spending, and time wastage. Only seek emergency help when you experience the above or any of the following symptoms; • Head or eye injury • Seizure • Severe cold or flu symptoms • Vagina bleeding while pregnant • Fainting • Fever with rash • Loss of vision • Severe burns • Coughing up blood

When To Call 911

If your instincts tell you that you have a severe medical issue that requires immediate attention, call 911. Don’t drive yourself to the hospital if you have severe chest pains, impaired vision, or excessive bleeding. If someone faints near you, call 911 to get them to an emergency facility as quickly as possible. Also, for heart attacks, call 911 for an ambulance so that the medics can administer lifesaving treatment right away before getting to the hospital. However, when you call 911 for non-emergency cases, the dispatchers might get flooded, and someone experiencing a life-threatening issue may not get the help they need.

When To Get Urgent Care

The urgent care centers handle more serious but non-life-threatening injuries or illnesses. If you cut yourself, and the bandage doesn’t seem to work, but you can’t spot a bone or any worrisome tissue, you may seek urgent care. The medical practitioners will clean and stitch your wound quickly to prevent further infections. In fact, 84 % of the critical care patients finish their session within an hour. Additionally, if you experience flu that won’t respond to home treatment, urgent care will be helpful. At times, you could be suffering from minor respiratory issues. Also, visit your nearest urgent care center if you experience chest pains and don’t have a heart disease history. Urgent care clinics can also handle minor bone fractures at the ankle, hand, finger, foot, or ribs. When you can’t reach your primary doctor, you can visit an urgent care center. One main benefit of such facilities is that they operate all days, including weekends and holidays. However, avoid over-relying on urgent care centers for routine clinics and checkups. Only go there to complement your preventive care when something comes up or for the following treatments. • Animal bites • Sore throat • High fever • Minor burns • Sinus • Skin problems and rashes • Vomiting, diarrhea and minor stomach pains • Urinary tract infections • Sprains and strains

When To Go To A Walk-In Clinic

Visit walk-in clinics when you need quick and convenient access to medical care. You are likely to find a nurse or physician assistants who can handle minor injuries and illnesses that can’t wait. One great thing about such facilities is that they provide on-demand care without appointments. They also operate for long hours, beneficial to those with fixed schedules. They can to treat issues like; • Fever • Mild cold or flu • Back pain • Sprains • Mild eye injury • Ear pain • Cough and congestion • Minor cuts or burns They are a great option when you aren’t feeling well, but you don’t need emergency assistance. Others even administer vaccines.

How To Prepare For Your Health Facility Visit

Now that you know what care facility you need to visit in different situations, it’s essential that you prepare adequately to get the most out of your visit. Since most facilities accept walk-in, check-in online to minimize your waiting time. Call the facility earlier enough to reserve a slot, and you can even provide them with your initial information so that the medical practitioner can prepare for your arrival. Additionally, it would be best to find the right facility earlier. Always have an option in mind, so don’t wait until when you get sick. Do background research and pick a facility that specializes in the care you need. For instance, some hospitals deal with women’s health, while others handle children’s needs. Spot hospitals near your location and familiarize yourself with their working hours. Whether you want to visit a walk-in, urgent care, or emergency room, you must carry along with a list of all your medications. Include vitamins and any other supplements that you use and the amount. It would be best to present a list of your past hospitalizations, medication allergies, and any previous procedures you have had. In case of surgeries or any other serious procedures, you must include the date and the name of the practitioners who performed them. Such information is incredibly beneficial, especially when in an emergency room since it will help the doctors administer the best possible treatment. Although you can visit walk-in clinics and urgent care facilities at any time, note the less busy periods. It could be during the weekends on holidays or at night. The longer the line, the more time you will take before getting help. Remember that the less busy a facility is, the quicker you will get help. Again, don’t go to a clinic or urgent care facility when you have a life-threatening issue. It’s very dangerous since the facilities might not have the right equipment to handle your situation.

What To Expect From Various Care Facilities

Different health care facilities vary based on the level of care availed, therefore, expect to have different experiences. Although an emergency room can handle the same issues like the urgent care centers, you are more likely to spend more time. The emergency rooms give priority to critical issues. Again, the treatment sessions can take longer, and you are most likely to waste a lot of time. It’s therefore advisable that you consider urgent care or clinics for less severe issues. 96 % of urgent centers maintain waiting time to 30 minutes or less. By going to the wrong clinic, you will also waste money. Emergency care costs higher, and some insurance restricts emergency room visits. Again, the emergency rooms have various specialists and improved test equipment, thus expect to pay higher. The walk-in clinics and urgent care facilities cost way much cheaper. The cost in clinics depends on the nature of the condition, and they accept most health insurance types. There is, therefore, no need to pay for emergency services if you don’t need that. For non-life-threatening illnesses, you are more likely to get quality care at urgent care centers. Most of these centers operate around the clock, and most of the staff work on a full-time basis. However, always remember that if you visit a health care center and they determine that your case needs a more technical approach, they will send you to an emergency room that will cost you more money and time.


It’s worth noting that all medical conditions, emergency or not, require urgent attention. Therefore, visit the right facility to ensure that you get the proper treatment within the shortest time possible. If you are experiencing mild illnesses, go to a walk-in clinic. If you need more immediate or after-hour care, urgent care centres suit you best. On the other hand, if you experience severe illness that affects your entire body, call 911 to immediately get you to an emergency room. Although choosing where to turn to after an unexpected medical situation can be challenging, the above guide will help solve your dilemma.
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