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When to choose urgent care instead of the emergency room

When you are sick or injured, you want to feel better. Fast. While you may realize that someone else’s situation is more life-threatening, you still want to be treated quickly.

For many, urgent care facilities are still a new addition to the list of medical treatment options. Not long ago, if you were sick, you need to choose between the emergency room and waiting to see your primary care physician. Now, urgent care facilities offer a third option.

Here’s what you should know about choosing between urgent care and the emergency room.

Some situations require the emergency room

When you or your loved one is having a major emergency, like difficulty breathing, you need to go to an emergency room. Nurses in a hospital’s emergency room will prioritize patients who have a life-threatening emergency according to their triage protocol.

A hospital will also have a greater variety of doctors on staff. If you have an injury or illness that requires a specialist, an emergency room is more likely to have the type of help you need.

Urgent care can be faster for some treatments

If you have ever needed care from an emergency room, you may have experienced a long wait. Even when you understand that there are people with more serious medical issues, it can be challenging to wait for a long time when you are in pain.

Since urgent care facilities do not have as much traffic from people with life-threatening conditions, fewer people are waiting to receive care. Some urgent care facilities post their wait times online or on local billboards, so you can know ahead of time how long you might be waiting.

If you are unsure about whether you should go to urgent care or an emergency room, try calling your hospital’s emergency department so they can help you decide.

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