What is Urgent Care, and When Should You Use It?

Urgent care is a type of medical care designed to treat minor illnesses and injuries. Such conditions require prompt attention but are not serious enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room (ER). If you’re passionate about health, the American Family Care healthcare franchise may offer a gateway to realizing your dream by providing urgent care services. 

An urgent care center is typically staffed by physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. These professionals provide a wide range of services, such as X-rays and stitches. Plus, such centers are often open for extended hours and on weekends or holidays. As a result, they offer a convenient and affordable option for many common medical needs, making them an invaluable resource for patients.

Also, if you cannot or do not want to wait for an appointment with your primary care physician, an urgent care facility may sort out your issue. When deciding whether to visit an urgent care center or the ER, consider the severity of your symptoms. Let’s discuss the services you can expect at such a facility, and when an ER visit would be preferable.   

No Need for an Appointment 

If you are experiencing a life-threatening condition, such as chest pain or shortness of breath, you should always call 911 or go to the nearest ER. Nonetheless, an ER visit would be unnecessary if your symptoms are less severe and can be safely treated with over-the-counter medications.

Urgent care centers provide a much-needed service to communities by offering medical care on a walk-in basis. In most cases, no appointment is necessary to receive care at such a facility.

However, a few centers may require appointments for non-emergency services such as sports physicals or vaccination clinics. If you’re eyeing a particular center, it’s advisable to call in advance and inquire whether or not you need to schedule an appointment.

It could also be that your symptoms may not be severe enough to warrant immediate medical attention. But, you are unable to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician within a reasonable time frame. As such, an urgent care center may be your best option.

It is important to note that urgent care centers are not intended to replace your regular doctor. All the same, they can fill in the gap by providing the care you need when your regular doctor is unavailable. Some of the most common reasons people visit urgent care facilities include:

  • Coughs
  • Earaches
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Minor cuts or burns
  • Sprains or fractures
  • Abdominal pain
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Emergency Conditions

As we have discussed, urgent care centers don’t typically handle emergency conditions. Emergency conditions are conditions that immediately threaten a person’s life, health, or property. They can include:

  • A major accident resulting in substantial injuries
  • Gunshot wounds
  • Symptoms of heart attack
  • Severe burns
  • Stroke symptoms- including weakness, loss of sight, or slurred speech
  • Pregnancy-related issues

In most cases, emergencies require the services of trained medical professionals and first responders. As a result, urgent care centers are not equipped to handle these conditions. If you are in an emergency, your nearest hospital ER would be the best place for you. However, you might want to consider urgent care if you have a minor illness or injury.

What You Need to Know

When you have a medical emergency, you need to be seen by a doctor as soon as possible. However, if you visit an urgent care center, you may not get to see a doctor. Instead, a nurse or a physician assistant may attend to you. While these healthcare providers are trained to provide high-quality care, they are not doctors.

As a result, they may not offer the same level of care as a doctor. Conversely, an ER is staffed by doctors who can provide the necessary care. Although you can get treatment for many health conditions at an urgent care center, it’s prudent to follow up with your physician.

Similarly, although some urgent care centers have doctors, they may be ill-equipped to handle an emergency. As such, heading to such a facility could be potentially risky. Plus, you may waste valuable time that you would have otherwise used to access an ER.

In a medical emergency, seeking treatment at the right facility is crucial. Hence, it’s vital to distinguish the services you can receive at an urgent care center from what an ER offers. That way, you can establish the best course of action by seeking the right treatment for your situation. But if you are unsure whether your symptoms require immediate attention, you can always speak to a nurse or doctor in advance. Such professionals can help you make the right choice.

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