When someone gets injured or suddenly becomes ill, it can be tough to determine where to go for the most practical care. Is a visit to the emergency room in order, or will a trip to an urgent care center suffice? Here are a few differences between urgent care and emergency rooms you should know about when deciding where to take yourself or your loved one when the need for medical attention arises:
There is usually a big difference in waiting times between urgent care centers and emergency rooms. Because such a large community of people are typically served by one emergency room, the waiting room tends to stay filled up and it could take hours before being seen by a doctor. But multiple urgent care centers can be established throughout a community, city, or town, which makes it easy for each one to serve their patients more quickly. Wait times may take only an hour or less which will save you some time and help stop you from getting too stressed out before seeing a doctor.
Severity of Problems
Urgent care centers don't always have the time, manpower, or equipment necessary to deal with life threatening health conditions and injuries like an emergency room can. But urgent care centers can handle many problems that you might be inclined to go to the emergency room for such as:
Severe back pain due to injury.
Diarrhea and vomiting due to food poisoning.
Fevers that won't break at home.
If it's clear that a life threatening situation is taking place, skip the urgent care center and head straight to the emergency room because that is where you'll probably end up getting sent anyway. But if you aren't sure whether the illness or injury is too serious, it's a good idea to go to the urgent care center and see if they can help you first.
Another difference between urgent care centers and emergency rooms might be the resources that they make available to their patients. While most emergency rooms are located in hospitals where bed accommodations are available, you won't find yourself staying overnight at an urgent care center any time soon.
And while some urgent care centers offer things like counseling services, emergency rooms don't usually have the resources to do so. Every facility will offer different resources depending on their size, budget, and capability. So ask your local emergency room and urgent care center for a list of available resources so you will know what's available at each facility when an illness or injury occurs.