Knowing the Difference Between Urgent and Emergency Care

The modern healthcare industry is a truly vast one, and when people hear “healthcare,” they will probably think of a hospital. While a hospital and its emergency room are certainly part of this industry, there is more. Over 1,000 urgent care centers and walk in clinics can be found across the United States today, and 24 hour walk in clinics can be very convenient for patients. Meanwhile, 24 hour emergency care may be possible at a hospital or an emergency clinic, and children with medical needs may be taken to a childrens urgent care center or a pediatric emergency clinic.

What is urgent care used for? Or when does a patient need emergency care? When a victim needs medical care, a nearby responsible adult may look up local urgent or emergency care clinics, but they should know the difference between those two levels of care. Knowing “what is urgent care used for?” can go a long way, and the seeker may find urgent or emergency clinics nearby that are currently open. An online search may show the hours of operation, name, and address of local clinics of all sorts, from convenient care to emergency sites. But what is urgent care used for?

On Urgent Care

Someone wondering “what is urgent care used for?” may soon learn just how convenient and flexible this sort of medical care can be. Not all patients are in critical condition, and hospitals and emergency rooms should not be treated as a catch-all for medical care. Someone with mild health problems would waste a lot of time and money going in for emergency care, but walk in clinics can be much cheaper and faster. This may be partly why they are known for providing “convenient” care.

The concept of urgent care clinics is fairly new, but it has grown rapidly from the early 1990s to now. A few thousand urgent care clinics can be found in the United States today, and most of them tend to be small and independent clinics (though they can sometimes form small local networks with one another). These clinics are staffed with nurse practitioners and physicians who can take care of non life-threatening illnesses and wounds for their patients, and if a clinic is running smoothly, it may see three patients per hour on average. A guest may expect an average wait time of around 15 minutes or so.

Where are these clinics? Many of them are built into strip malls for ease of access and parking, though some can be found in large retailer such as Target or Walgreens. These retail clinics typically have pharmacies on hand, so shoppers may conveniently pick up prescription drug refills while they are out shopping. Other urgent care clinics may in fact be built into hospitals, though they offer distinct care from the hospital at large.

At an urgent care center, a patient may not only visit the pharmacy, but also bet medicinal relief from the common cold or flu during influenza season. Four in five of these clinics may also offer treatment for bone fractures, and nearly all walk in clinics may offer aid for sprained wrists or ankles, too. The nurses on staff may provide stitches and bandages for shallow cuts, and those nurses may also offer lotion or ointment for nasty cases of sunburn or rashes from allergic reactions. Upper respiratory issues are also common reasons to visit urgent care clinics.

Hybrid Care

Some clinics are known to offer urgent and emergency care side by side, and this is helpful if it is not clear what level of care a victim may need. Emergency care is for patients whose lives are in danger, and doctors and trained physicians can take care of them. What calls for emergency care at a hospital or a hybrid clinic? Broken arms or legs call for emergency care, not to mention head or eyeball injuries, or stab or bullet wounds that are bleeding heavily. Serious chest pain or difficulty breathing also call for emergency care, as such conditions may turn life threatening at any time, if they are not already. Patients will also need emergency care if they are experiencing or recently suffered a heart attack or a stroke.

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