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When to Go to Urgent or Emergency Care

Americans sometimes suffer from injuries or illnesses that call for a visit to urgent or emergency care, and a victim will need a responsible adult nearby to take them to emergency medical clinics or to walk in clinics in their area. This may be done when someone uses an Internet search on a mobile device or a PC to find emergency medical clinics or clinic care near them, and they may use their city or town name or even their ZIP code to refine the search and find a local, open clinic to visit. A search query such as “emergency medical clinics Boston MA” or “local doctors San Francisco CA” followed by their ZIP code may help. Many of these clinics have wide hours of operation for their patients’ convenience, and some may be open late at night or early in the morning for their guests. What is there to know about emergency medical clinics and walk in urgent care clinics?

Going to Emergency Medical Clinics

It may be noted that emergency and urgent care are not, in fact, the same thing. Rather, emergency care refers to when a patient is suffering a life-threatening illness, injury, or condition, and not just any clinic can help stabilize them. This is when the ER in a hospital, or emergency medical clinics, will be visited. Someone near the victim may either drive them to these emergency medical clinics, or call an ambulance to take them to the hospital for immediate treatment. The doctors at such emergency medical clinics will have the training and medical tools needed to stabilize a patient and get them out of danger while they recover. Patients may be suffering from serious chest pain or difficulty breathing, for example, which can become life-threatening in many cases. Broken arms or legs call for emergency medical clinics as well, as do head or eye injuries. Heavy bleeding or organ damage, such as a broken rib puncturing a lung, also call for visiting emergency medical clinics to save a life. These emergency medical clinics should not be treated as a catch-all medical center, however, and neither should hospital ERs. Many patients at these emergency centers can and should instead visit urgent care clinics, which frees up much-needed room in the ER for patients in need.

Urgent Care

By contrast, urgent care centers can treat a wide variety of non life-threatening wounds and illnesses, and they are common across the United States. Many thousands of them are in operation today, and most towns or cities have at least a few of them. Most of these clinics are small and independent, but some of them are united into small, local networks with each other. They are often either standalone buildings or found in strip malls, but some of them may be integrated into other buildings. Some urgent care centers are built into hospitals, and their staff and medical services are distinct from those provided by the hospital at large. A patient could visit that clinic and entirely ignore the hospital itself if they don’t need it. Other clinics are built into large retailers such as Target, Walmart, and Walgreens, and usually have pharmacies in them. Shoppers may visit these retail clinics during their shopping trip and pick up their prescription drug refills at their convenience.

Such clinics are staffed with nurse practitioners and physicians who have the training and tools to treat many non life-threatening problems, and most have pharmacists on hand as well. If such a clinic is running smoothly, it may treat around three patients per hour, and a guest may expect a wait time of around 15 minutes or so. The guest may also check if their healthcare insurance policy is accepted there.

Four in five such urgent care clinics can treat bone fractures, and many of them can also take care of broken fingers or toes as well. Sprained ankles or wrists, common everyday injuries, may also be treated at these clinics. Patients with shallow cuts (such as from touching broken glass) may get stitches and bandages. Many patients visit these clinics to get lotion and cream for sunburns or rashes on the skin, and they may also get medicinal relief from the common cold or flu.

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