Urgent care vs the Emergency room: Where Should I Go?

It’s 5 o’ clock, you’re leaving work and you suddenly have chest pain and tightness. Your doctor’s office just closed and the pain is not terrible. So, what do you do? Where do you go? 

With so many options for after-hours care, it’s hard to know where to go for what condition? As you may already know, I’ve spent over 20 years working in critical care units and emergency rooms as a cardiac clinical nurse specialist and family nurse practitioner and I can easily save you some time and frustration by giving you tips on the best place to go for your ailment.

So should you go to the Urgent Care, the ER or perhaps just wiat for your doctor to open in the morning? Let’s discuss.

According to the AAUCM, Urgent Care services are medically necessary services which are required for an illness or injury that would not result in further disability or death if not treated immediately, but require professional attention and have the potential to develop such a threat if treatment is delayed longer than 24 hours. Examples of conditions treated at an urgent care may include: 

  • Ear pain
  • Throat pain
  • Fever
  • Pink eye
  • Rash
  • Insect Bites
  • Upper Respiratory Infections
  • Sinusitis
  • Simple Migraines
  • Vomiting/Nausea without dehydration
  • Sprains/Strains

The ER should be reserved for true emergencies or conditions that require immediate medical attention. Treatment in the ER is associated with the highest cost of care. Examples of conditions treated in an ER setting may include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Severe Pain
  • Trauma
  • Altered mental status
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Allergic reactions
  • Seizures
  • Strokes
  • Burns
  • High fevers not reduced with meds
  • Suicidal thoughts

If you are not sure what to do or how serious your condition is, you can always call your doctor for advice. If you have an emergency, call 911. 


About the Blogger:
Nurse Alice is a cardiac clinical nurse specialist and family nurse practitioner with over 20 years of experience working primarily in critical care and emergency medicine. She has been featured on countless national networks sharing pertinent health education and is the CEO and founder of Nurse Approved, LLC, a company that empowers people to protect their health, wellness and safety through our courses, trainings, books, products and services BEFORE they become patients because we care. If you're looking for excellence, make sure it’s Nurse Approved.