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Clinics vs. Urgent Care vs. ER: What’s the Difference?

Jan 6 2020
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Have you ever had your son fall off his bike on a Saturday evening? Or has your daughter come in your bedroom on a Sunday morning with an earache? Perhaps you don’t have a regular doctor to call or you need quick care when you are out of town. If so, you know the challenges of deciding when and where to go for health care services.

Fortunately, there are many options, ranging from walk-in clinics to urgent care centers and emergency rooms. But how do you know which one is best for you and your family?

Learn about the different services offered at walk-in clinics, urgent care centers and emergency rooms.

Walk-in clinics

Walk-in clinics are often located within a retail store and are staffed by nurse practitioners or physician assistants. Clinics can treat milder symptoms and diagnose conditions such as strep throat, ear infections, UTIs and the flu.

Urgent care

Urgent care centers are freestanding locations staffed by doctors, nurse practitioners, or physician assistants. They typically offer more services than a walk-in clinic such as stitches, splints, x-rays, and laboratory work. They can also provide treatments for minor injuries and common illnesses.

When to visit a walk-in clinic or urgent care

Both walk-in clinics and urgent care centers offer treatment for non-emergency issues, which is helpful when your primary care provider is unavailable. Urgent cares may provide care more quickly with shorter wait times compared to an emergency department, which is designed for treating serious illnesses and injuries. Bon Secours Urgent Care locations also offer convenient features such as online check-in and wait time visibility.

When to seek emergency care

For emergency issues such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, sudden numbness, and severe bleeding, it is always best to call 911 or visit your nearest emergency room. Emergency rooms are best equipped to handle life-threatening conditions.

If you do not have an emergency issue but aren’t sure what to do, your family doctor or health insurance may offer a nurse advice hotline you can call. The nurse will ask you about your symptoms and advise you on what to do.

To be prepared before a medical issue arises and have peace of mind, do these three things:

  • Understand your health insurance company’s policies for walk-in, urgent and emergency care coverage by reviewing your policy or contacting your insurance company.
  • Find your nearest emergency department.
  • Locate your preferred urgent care center.

Learn more about the urgent care services offered at Bon Secours.


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