The American healthcare industry is a truly vast one, and a victim in need of care may be taken to a variety of healthcare providers. The most serious medical cases call for an emergency room or a hospital’s ER, but that’s hardly the only option. In fact, most medical cases are minor and would be too expensive and time consuming to address in an ER, so these patients may instead visit urgent care centers nearby. A nearby responsible party may look up “closest urgent care near me” into a PC or a smartphone to find local results, which may show the name, address, and hours of local clinics. If the victim needs care at an odd time of day, the seeker may specify that they need to find a 24 hour urgent care center or walk in clinic. These are mainly for adult patients aged 18 and over, and children may instead be taken to a pediatric urgent care, which will have pediatricians on staff. Children with major injuries, meanwhile, can be taken to the hospital, which will also have pediatricians on staff.
It should be noted that “emergency” and “urgent” care are in fact not the same thing. Urgent care is for everyday and minor wounds or illnesses, while emergency care handles life-threatening cases and conditions. For example, a patient may be rushed into the ER if they have suffered a broken arm or a leg, or if they have suffered an injury to their head or eyes. Serious chest pain or difficulty breathing also call for emergency care, as these conditions may soon turn life-threatening, if they aren’t already. Stab or bullet wounds also merit a visit to the emergency room, and those injuries may be bleeding heavily. And what about abdominal pain? Most abdominal pain is minor and harmless, but if the pain is severe, sudden, and/or long lasting, then it is safe to bring the patient to the ER. The underlying cause might be quite serious, such as internal bleeding or even cancer.
All this is for major medical cases. A patient with more minor wounds can visit an urgent care clinic, but some of these clinics are in fact a hybrid model. These hybrid clinics are flexible since they offer emergency and urgent care side by side, which is helpful if it’s not clear what level of care an arriving patient might need.
As mentioned above, urgent care centers are ideal for minor and everyday wounds or illnesses, and some of them are designed for young patients in mind. If a child suffers everyday bumps or scrapes, that youngster may be driven to a pediatric urgent care center or walk in clinic, and pediatricians on staff can take care of them. Pediatricians are specialized doctors who are experts on the anatomy of children and babies, and they are familiar with common conditions that affect them, such as ear infections or the common cold. Parents may look up “pediatric urgent clinic near me,” for example, to find clinics like this.
Overall, there are good reasons why urgent care is also called “convenient care.” Over 2,000 urgent care clinics can be found across the United States in towns, cities, and rural communities alike, and many are small and independent clinics run by nurse practitioners and physicians. Often, these clinics are built into strip malls for easy access and parking, though some can be found in retail stores or even found in hospitals (they offer distinct care from the hospital itself). A clinic that is running smoothly pay see about three patients per hour, and a patient may expect an average wait time of 15 minutes.
A patient may visit an urgent care clinic for its pharmacy, where trained pharmacists can offer prescription drug refills. Those patients may also seek medicinal relief from the common cold or flu during influenza season, too. Meanwhile, the nurse practitioners on staff may offer stitches and bandages for shallow cuts, and they can also provide treatment for ankle or wrist sprains. Four in five of these clinics offer treatment for bone fractures, and patients may get lotion or ointment for nasty cases of sunburn or rashes. Upper respiratory issues are another common reason to visit these urgent care clinics.