When should I go to urgent care versus the emergency room (ER)?
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Dr. Nancy Calsolaro Smulsky
Ambulatory Care Specialist

Urgent care centers are used for non-life threatening illness and injury care such as:

  • a minor cut with controlled bleeding
  • twisted ankle and need an x-ray to rule out fracture
  • an ear ache
  • sore throat without fever
  • flu symptoms with low grade fever (under 101 degrees Fahrenheit) for an adult
  • a rash

More serious illness and injury requiring an emergency room visit would include:

  • chest pain
  • broken bone protruding out of the skin
  • adult with fever 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
  • abdominal pain
  • uncontrolled bleeding
  • allergic reaction
  • animal bite
Edtrina Moss
Ambulatory Care Specialist

Emergency departments in hospitals are designed to handle life-threatening illnesses and injuries such as heart attack, stroke, trauma, respiratory distress, status epilepticus (uncontrolled seizures), loss of consciousness, burns or any illness or condition that poses an IMMEDIATE risk to life.

Urgent care in an ambulatory setting is designed for non-life-threatening illness and injury such as acute sinusitis, sprains/strains, or any illness or condition that DOES NOT pose an immediate risk to life but requires attention before you can visit your Primary Care Provider during the next business day.

It is important to note that having a Primary Care Provider and scheduling regular, preventative visits is the most effective method to decrease visits to urgent care and emergency departments. These services are very expensive and are not designed to address the holistic needs of individuals.

The best recommendation is to use prevention strategies that improve health and wellness. One strategy is to commit to regular check-ups with your Primary Care Provider.

Ocala Health
Administration Specialist
An urgent care facility can’t handle the same issues an emergency room can. In this video, Michael Bumbach, ARNP of Ocala Regional Medical Center explains the different reasons you might visit each.    
Dr. Jennifer L. Swanson, MD
Emergency Medicine Specialist

Urgent care centers give prompt medical treatment for minor medical conditions when your family physician is not available. Urgent care physicians have the capability of diagnosing and treating medical illnesses like strep throat and pneumonia, but they also can handle sprains, strains, lacerations and even the initial management of many fractures.

Emergency departments were designed to diagnose and treat serious health conditions. That is, those problems that require hospital admission, warrant immediate surgery, or need a specific procedure or medication in order to prevent the loss of life or limb. Urgent care clinics are able to manage problems that are neither life nor limb threatening, but still demand prompt attention. For treatment for a suspected heart attack or stroke, call 911 and head to the ER. On the other hand, if your child just needs wound care or evaluation for an ankle injury, your local urgent care center might be just what you need.

Jennifer Dekoschak, RN
Emergency Medicine Specialist

Jennifer Dekoschak, RN from Parkland Medical Center, believes it comes down to patient preference when deciding between visiting urgent care versus the emergency department. Watch this video to learn more.

CareNow
Administration Specialist

You should go to urgent care versus the emergency room (ER) if you have a condition that is not life threatening. Emergency rooms are designed to treat people with critical conditions and life-threatening injuries. They are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Urgent care clinics are designed for people whose illnesses or injuries don’t present as life-threatening, but who feel they cannot wait until their primary care provider can treat them. Urgent care clinics are typically open on weekends and with extended weeknight hours. They generally see people on a walk in basis.

Dr. Scott A. Scherr, MD
Emergency Medicine Specialist
If you feel like you're having an emergency, you should go to the emergency room, says Scott Scherr, MD, from Sunrise Hospital. Find out what would merit a trip to urgent care instead by watching this short video.
Dr. David M. Dodd, MD
Emergency Medicine Specialist
Simple things like sore throats, coughs, bumps and bruises should be seen in urgent care, says Michael Dodd, MD, from Frankfort Regional Medical Center. Learn which problems he says merit an ER visit in this video.
Dr. Kathleen Handal, MD
Emergency Medicine Specialist

Consider going to an urgent care center for minor illnesses and injuries, such as flu, fever, earaches, nausea, rashes, animal and insect bites, minor bone fractures or cuts requiring stitches. Remember, however, that these facilities may be convenient but are no substitute for hospital emergency care in a medical emergency, such as a heart attack, stroke or trauma. They don’t have the same equipment or trained staff as an emergency room (ER). Many centers conduct physical exams, vision and hearing screenings and basic lab tests and x-rays. Check with your insurance company to learn about the urgent care centers covered under your policy.

Your ER Survival Guide: What You Need To Know Before You Go (DocHandal's Guides Book 4)

More About this Book

Your ER Survival Guide: What You Need To Know Before You Go (DocHandal's Guides Book 4)

Few people get through life without at least one trip to the emergency room (ER), either as a patient or support person for a family member or friend.  "Your ER Survival Guide" is the new title for "Doc's ER Survival Guide" it is for non medical persons! It is designed to help calm readers' fears by giving them the lowdown on how an ER operates. The book is written by Kathleen Handal, MD, an emergency physician with over 20 years experience. Handal is a nationally and internationally known emergency medicine physician who authored "The American Red Cross First Aid & Safety Handbook" and co-authored a series of medical textbooks. Included are ten simple steps to follow to get ready for an ER visit, as well as valuable insight into how an ER operates so readers can advocate for the best care possible. Complicated tests and terminology are explained in easy-to-understand terms.Doctors and nurses are making decisions in a fast-paced, stressful environment. Mistakes can and do happen. So the more people know about what to expect the less likely one of those mistakes will happen to them. Reading the book is like having Doc Handal at your side when you need her the most.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.