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When to Go to an Urgent Care Center

Every so often, Americans young and old will sometimes suffer from injuries or illnesses that call for medical attention. If a victim needs help, it is important that a nearby responsible adult can find walk in clinics, urgent care centers, or a hospital and arrange for transport there. If the helper does not already know nearby urgent care centers to try, they can look up such clinics (or an emergency room) online with a PC or a smartphone. They may enter a query such as “urgent care centers near me Boston MA” or “emergency care clinics in Dallas TX” and find local results. If the victim needs help at an odd time of day, the seeker may specify that they are looking for a 24 hour clinic, as not all urgent care centers are open at all times. When might a victim need to visit urgent care centers, and what calls for a visit to emergency care? It is important to note, after all, that emergency and urgent are are quite distinct and not to be confused.

Getting Emergency Care

What does emergency care entail? This is the highest level of care, reserved for cases of life-threatening injuries or illnesses that need treatment at once. Emergency clinics (not walk in clinics) and hospitals can provide this high level of care at the hands of doctors and physicians with the right medicine and tools for the job. A patient may need this level of care for broken arms or legs, for example, or if they have suffered a head or eye injury. Bullet or stab wounds also call for emergency care, especially if those wounds are bleeding heavily or damaged internal organs. Serious chest pain and/or difficulty breathing also merit emergency care, as such conditions may become life-threatening, if they aren’t already. The same is true if the patient has just suffered a heart attack or a stroke. What about abdominal pain, though? Many cases of abdominal pain are in fact harmless, involving only gas or indigestion. But if the pain is strong, sudden, and/or long lasting, it is time for emergency care.

Patients who have suffered only minor and not life-threatening medical cases can and should visit urgent care centers instead of the ER, since these clinics are typically much cheaper and faster to visit than the ER, hence the nickname “convenient care.” Emergency care should be reserved for patients who truly need it, although some clinics are in fact a hybrid model. These hybrid clinics may offer urgent and emergency care side by side, which is helpful if it is not clear what level of care an arriving patient might need.

Getting Urgent Care

A victim who needs urgent care can be taken to (or even take themselves to) any of the thousands of urgent care or walk in clinics found across the United States, and all cities and most towns have at least a few of them. Such clinics are typically small and independent, and staffed with nurse practitioners and physicians. Sometimes, a few urgent care clinics might form a small local network with one another.

Many of these urgent care clinics are found in strip malls, making them easy to find and get parking for. In other cases, they may be built into retailers, known as retail clinics, and usually have a pharmacy for the convenience of shoppers who want to pick up a prescription drug refill. Other clinics may be found in a hospital. In general, such clinics are more convenient to visit than an ER, and a clinic that is running smoothly may see three patients per hour.

A guest may visit a walk in clinic to get medicinal relief from the common cold or flu during influenza season, as well as visit the on-site pharmacy. Four in five of these urgent clinics offer care for bone fractures, and most can also provide treatment for wrist or ankle sprains. In addition, guests may have shallow cuts tended to with stitches and bandages, and guests may get lotion or ointment applied for bad rashes or sunburn. Upper respiratory issues are another common reason to visit these walk in clinics. Patients here may also get medicinal relief from a stomach flu.

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