What's the difference between ER, Urgent Care and walk-in clinics?
What’s the difference between ER, urgent care and walk-in clinic?
“Recognizing the differences between ‘emergency’ and ‘urgent’ care can be confusing, because both terms imply there is a medical need that needs to be addressed quickly.
Hospital emergency departments provide medical care at any time, day or night. Unlike urgent care centers or walk-in clinics, they are equipped and staffed to handle the most complex or critical needs, including life- and limb-threatening situations ranging from heart attack and stroke to traumatic injuries following a car accident.
Urgent care or walk-in clinics help fill a vital gap when you become sick or injured, but your regular doctor is not available, and you can’t wait for an appointment.
“If your sudden illness or injury is something you would normally feel comfortable addressing with your primary care doctor, then an urgent care center or walk-in clinic setting is probably more appropriate than the emergency room,” says Dr. Evans.
When to go to the ER
Certain medical conditions are considered emergencies because they can require rapid or advanced treatments, including surgery, that are only available in a hospital setting.
Symptoms that are best evaluated in an emergency room include:
- Chest pain or difficulty breathing
- Weakness/numbness on one side
- Slurred speech
- Fainting/change in mental state
- Serious burns
- Head or eye injury
- Broken bones and dislocated joints
- Fever with a rash
- Severe cuts that may require stitches.
- Facial lacerations
- Severe cold or flu symptoms
- Vaginal bleeding with pregnancy
If your personal instinct or your motherly intuition tells you it’s serious, don’t hesitate — go to the nearest emergency room.