When to Visit Urgent or Emergency Care Clinics

Americans young and old sometimes suffer from injury or health issues, and when this happens, it is important that someone nearby can find the right emergency care, doctors, or walk in health clinic to get treatment for them. A nearby responsible adult will know to either call 911 for an ambulance to the hospital or look up a walk in health clinic on a PC or mobile device such as a smart phone. At a walk in health clinic, a patient may get all sorts of treatment for everyday wounds or illnesses or even just get a drug refill at the pharmacy located there. In other cases, a patient is suffering from a life-threatening injury, illness, or condition that calls for more extensive care at the emergency room, or ER. It is important to make the distinction between the ER and a walk in health clinic, since they are meant for different sorts of medical ailments.

Going to the ER

Put simply, a patient will be taken to the ER if they are suffering from serious, even life-threatening injuries or conditions, and a life may be at stake in this situation. Patients may be taken to emergency care either by personal transport, such as a concerned friend or family member, or an ambulance that belongs to the hospital. At the ER, doctors and physicians will have the medical training, medicine, and tools to take care of these serious conditions and get a patient stabilized and out of danger. A patient may have distressing chest pain or difficulty breathing, for example, and those conditions may soon turn life-threatening, thus a visit to the ER. A patient in the ER may also have broken arms or legs, or a head or eye wound that a walk in health clinic cannot handle. Patients in the ER may suffer from heavy bleeding, bullet or stab wounds, or damaged organs (such as a broken rib puncturing a lung).

One should note, however, that not just any wound or illness merits a trip to the ER, and in fact around 44-65% of all ER episodes could have (and probably should have) been handled at an urgent care clinic instead. An urgent care patient in the ER may be taking up room that a patient in critical condition needs, so patients with minor health issues should instead visit walk in health clinics.

What to Expect At Urgent Care Clinics

Urgent care clinics number in the thousands across the United States, and they are often either independent small clinics or are grouped into small, local networks with one another. Such clinics may be built into strip malls, or they may even be built into a larger facility such as a retailer or a hospital. A retail clinic, for example, is built into a large retailer such as Target or Walgreens, and they make use of the larger retailer’s ample parking and prominent location and ease of access. The clinics inside may have similar or different hours of operation than the retailer itself, so patients may want to check that. Such clinics often have a pharmacy in them, and a shopper may visit the retailer for regular shopping as well as visiting the clinic for a prescription drug refill for convenience. Meanwhile, a hospital urgent care clinic is convenient to visit, but one should note that the clinic’s medical serves and staff are distinct from those of the hospital at large.

These urgent care clinics are staffed with nurse practitioners and physicians who can handle a wide variety of health ailments, and if the clinic is running smoothly, they may see about three patients per hour. A patient may expect a wait time close to 15 minutes, and they can check ahead of time if the clinic accepts their health insurance policy.

Four out of five such clinics can treat bone fractures, and most of them can also handle ankle and wrist sprains (common problems). These clinics may also offer bandages and stitches for shallow cuts, and they usually offer ointment and lotion for skin rashes and allergies as well. Patients may visit to get medicinal relief against the cold or flu or an allergy, and they can get a drug refill at the pharmacy as well.

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