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Emergency Department vs. Urgent Care: Do You Know Where to Go?

Emergency Room or Urgent Care: know where to go

Making choices can be tough—especially when you or someone in your family needs quick medical attention and you don’t have much time to decide where to go for help—either an urgent care center or the emergency room.

But knowing where to go for appropriate care ahead of time is important because studies show that half of all emergency room visits are not for true emergencies. And the less of an emergency you have, the longer you may have to wait to get the care you need. That’s because the doctors and nurses are busy treating other patients in life-or-death situations.

What’s the difference between the ER and Urgent Care?

An emergency room and urgent care center offer some of the same types of services, such as X-rays and blood tests. But they differ in important ways.

For example, an emergency room is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and treats patients with life-threatening illnesses or injuries. An urgent care center has limited hours and is designed to treat minor medical problems.

What is a true emergency?

Although this is not a complete list, here are examples of true emergency situations:

  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Sudden, severe pain, such as a headache or stomachache
  • Head or back injuries
  • Bleeding or vomiting that won’t stop
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Poisoning
  • Major burns and cuts
  • Choking

What is an Urgent Care Need?

An urgent care center is the right place to go for medical problems that need immediate—but not emergency—attention. Examples of these types of medical situations include:

  • minor sprains
  • small cuts
  • sore throats
  • fevers
  • ear infections.

Even though an urgent care center can provide important medical treatment, if you are in doubt, go to the nearest emergency room or call 911.

The Touro Emergency Department is here to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  You’ll have access to specialists, state-of-the-art testing and a committed, caring staff.

Patients with less serious illnesses and injuries can be seen in the Fast Track area, shortening both wait and treatment times. Fast Track is not an urgent care center, but an “express lane” through the Emergency Department experience, open 7 days a week, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Dr. Matthew Bernard is a board-certified Emergency Medicine physician and Director of the Touro Infirmary Emergency Department.  Dr. Bernard is a graduate of LSU Medical School in New Orleans, LA, and completed his Emergency Medicine Residents at Charity Hospital/University Hospital in New Orleans.