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When You Should NOT Go To an Urgent Care

Key Points

  • Urgent care clinics are not suitable for major medical traumas, such as heart attacks, strokes, serious accidents, or any event that could cause loss of life, limb, or eyesight. In such cases, immediate emergency room care is necessary.
  • Urgent care clinics usually operate extended hours but are not open 24/7. If a non-emergency issue arises outside of these hours, it may be best to wait until the clinic reopens or arrange an appointment with a primary physician.
  • Urgent care locations do not handle childbirth. Pregnant women should consult with their obstetrician and general practitioner to plan a suitable birthing location.
  • Chronic conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, should be managed by a primary care physician or appropriate specialist who is familiar with the patient's medical history and treatment plans.
  • While urgent care facilities can treat symptoms of chronic conditions and minor issues such as colds and broken bones, they are not equipped for major medical traumas, childbirth, or urgent after-hours problems. In such cases, emergency rooms are the appropriate choice.

Urgent care doesn't make sense in some cases and you should always know the difference between an urgent care and an emergency room. For example, if your loved one is experiencing heart attack symptoms, an urgent care clinic will forward you to an emergency room. Here are examples of times when you should not go to an urgent care clinic.

When You Should NOT Go To an Urgent Care

Key Points

  • Urgent care clinics are not suitable for major medical traumas, such as heart attacks, strokes, serious accidents, or any event that could cause loss of life, limb, or eyesight. In such cases, immediate emergency room care is necessary.
  • Urgent care clinics usually operate extended hours but are not open 24/7. If a non-emergency issue arises outside of these hours, it may be best to wait until the clinic reopens or arrange an appointment with a primary physician.
  • Urgent care locations do not handle childbirth. Pregnant women should consult with their obstetrician and general practitioner to plan a suitable birthing location.
  • Chronic conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, should be managed by a primary care physician or appropriate specialist who is familiar with the patient's medical history and treatment plans.
  • While urgent care facilities can treat symptoms of chronic conditions and minor issues such as colds and broken bones, they are not equipped for major medical traumas, childbirth, or urgent after-hours problems. In such cases, emergency rooms are the appropriate choice.

Urgent care doesn't make sense in some cases and you should always know the difference between an urgent care and an emergency room. For example, if your loved one is experiencing heart attack symptoms, an urgent care clinic will forward you to an emergency room. Here are examples of times when you should not go to an urgent care clinic.

Major Medical Trauma

Defining major medical traumas can be difficult, but they generally include any event that could cause the loss of life, limb, or eyesight. Here are examples of illnesses and issues that call for emergency room care, rather than urgent care:

  • Heart attacks or chest pain
  • Stroke or stroke symptoms
  • Unconscious patients
  • Serious accidents
  • Uncontrollable bleeding
  • Head trauma
  • Serious abdominal pain

People experiencing one or more of these problems should call 911 immediately, or proceed to the nearest emergency room. Insurance providers cover ER visits for any problem that could cause death, loss of limb, or loss of eyesight.

After Business Hours

While most urgent care locations have extended hours – most between 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week – most urgent care clinics don't stay open 24-hours a day. It's important to know your urgent care clinic's hours before you leave home, so that you don't waste valuable time re-routing to a hospital emergency room. If your visit is a non-emergency, then you could wait for the urgent care clinic to open the next morning for walk-in appointments, or call your primary physician for an appointment.

During Labor

Urgent care locations do not facilitate childbirth. If you are going into labor, you should head to the nearest hospital for the appropriate care. While an urgent care location would be better than nothing (such as in the event of a natural disaster), it should never be a woman's first choice if she is giving birth.

Pregnant women should consult with their obstetrician and general practitioner for assistance in planning a birthing location and plan. Most OBs have preferred hospitals for deliveries.

For Chronic Conditions

Most chronic conditions should be conducted by a primary care physician or appropriate specialist as they will be more familiar with your medical history and treatment plans. For example, if a patient is being treated for diabetes in an ongoing manner, then he or she should not go to urgent care clinics for follow-up appointments. Chronic conditions should be treated by one physician consistently, if possible, so that symptoms can be monitored for changes. Here is a list of chronic conditions that should be treated by a primary physician:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Prescription Re-Fills
  • Well-Baby Exams
  • Routine Wellness Exams

An urgent care facility could treat symptoms of chronic conditions. However, for a patient to receive insightful care, it is best to go to the physician who understands the scope and severity of your chronic illness whenever possible. Urgent care facilities help people who need walk-in medical care after traditional business hours, or when a primary physician is not available. They do help with minor issues such as colds, flus, or broken bones, but they are not equipped for major medical traumas and childbirth. People experiencing major traumas, pregnancy and childbirth, or urgent after-hours problems should go to emergency rooms for proper care and treatment.

Frequently asked questions

  • What is the difference between an urgent care clinic and an emergency room?

    An urgent care clinic is designed for walk-in medical care after traditional business hours or when a primary physician is not available. They can handle minor issues such as colds, flus, or broken bones. An emergency room, on the other hand, is equipped to handle major medical traumas, childbirth, and urgent after-hours problems that could cause death, loss of limb, or loss of eyesight.
  • What are some examples of major medical traumas that require an emergency room visit?

    Major medical traumas that require an emergency room visit include heart attacks, stroke symptoms, unconscious patients, serious accidents, uncontrollable bleeding, head trauma, and serious abdominal pain.
  • What should I do if I experience a major medical trauma?

    If you are experiencing a major medical trauma, you should call 911 immediately or proceed to the nearest emergency room.
  • What are the typical operating hours for an urgent care clinic?

    Most urgent care clinics have extended hours, typically from 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week. However, they do not usually stay open 24 hours a day.
  • Can I go to an urgent care clinic if I am going into labor?

    No, urgent care locations do not facilitate childbirth. If you are going into labor, you should head to the nearest hospital for the appropriate care.
  • Should I go to an urgent care clinic for treatment of chronic conditions?

    No, most chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and routine wellness exams should be conducted by a primary care physician or appropriate specialist who is familiar with your medical history and treatment plans.
  • Can an urgent care facility treat symptoms of chronic conditions?

    Yes, an urgent care facility can treat symptoms of chronic conditions. However, for insightful care, it is best to go to the physician who understands the scope and severity of your chronic illness whenever possible.
  • Are urgent care clinics equipped for major medical traumas and childbirth?

    No, urgent care clinics are not equipped for major medical traumas and childbirth. People experiencing these conditions should go to emergency rooms for proper care and treatment.

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