Difficulty breathing | Emergency room vs. urgent care | Why go to urgent care

Knowing When to Visit Urgent and Emergency Care Clinics

May 15, 2019


Americans often need medical care during their everyday lives, and it is important to know the difference between emergency room and urgent care. “Urgent” and “emergency” care may sound similar on the face of it, but the difference between emergency room and urgent care is actually quite distinct. The main difference between emergency room and urgent care is that emergency care is for life-threatening and serious injuries, conditions, and illnesses, and urgent care is for minor, everyday medical issues. Knowing this difference between emergency room and urgent care can be quite helpful when looking up local medical care for a victim, since sending them to the wrong sort of clinic may mean trouble. When a victim needs help, a nearby responsible adult will look up medical clinics in the area with a PC or mobile device, and find the address, hours, and name of such clinics and take the victim there. Searches may involve phrases such as “walk in clinic” or “emergency room care”, as well as the seeker’s home city or town or even their ZIP code to find something local. A search such as “24 hour urgent care in south Miami FL” is a fine example of this.

On Emergency Care

Understanding the difference between emergency room and urgent care starts with exploring the option of emergency care. Such emergency care is possible both at emergency clinics and at a hospital’s ER, or emergency room. A patient may be rushed to emergency care if he or she is suffering from an injury or condition that is or soon will be life-threatening, and the doctors and physicians at emergency care will have the training and tools to take care of this. For example, someone being rushed into the ER may have broken arms or legs, or they may have damaged internal organs and heavy bleeding, such as if a broken rib has punctured a lung. Serious chest pain or difficulty breathing may soon become life-threatening, and only emergency care can offer relief and stabilize the patient. Emergency care is also necessary for head or eye injuries or for bullet or stab wounds.

It may be noted that some emergency clinics are in fact hybrid clinics, meaning that they offer both urgent and emergency medical care for any patient who visits them. This makes such clinics highly flexible and convenient for patients in their area. After all, many patients who visit the ER or emergency clinics don’t even need that level of care, and take up room needed by a patient in a life-threatening situation. Better yet, if someone can’t determine if a patient needs urgent or emergency care, they can go to these hybrid clinics and get whatever care they need.

On Urgent Care

If emergency care is for life-threatening injuries and conditions, then urgent care is for nearly anything less serious than that. Everyday, non life-threatening wounds and conditions are best treated at such clinics, and that includes the aforementioned hybrid clinics that may be found in one’s area. Meanwhile, many thousands of dedicated urgent care clinics can be found across the United States, and they tend to be small and independent or form small local networks with one another. Many of these clinics are built into strip malls for ease of access, and more and more are being built in rural areas that don’t yet have one. Other urgent care clinics may be found inside large retailers such as Target or Walmart, and they often have a full-fledged pharmacy in them. This is highly convenient for shoppers who may want a prescription drug refill. Meanwhile, some urgent care clinics can in fact be found inside hospitals, and the patient may visit that clinic while ignoring the hospital’s other services and staff. The clinic is kept distinct for convenience.

Why might someone visit an urgent care clinic? Four in every five of these clinics can take care of bone fractures, for example, and most such clinics offer braces and other treatment for sprained wrists or ankles. Patients may get lotion or ointment for rashes, and they may get medicinal relief against the cold or flu. Nurse practitioners may also provide bandages and stitches for shallow cuts, and examine upper respiratory issues as well.

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