Four Things You Didn’t Know About Urgent Care Clinics


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Have you ever had a medical need that seemed important, but not to the extent that it warranted a trip to the emergency room? You know what I’m talking about. Your child has pink eye. You have a bronchial infection. You have strep throat. These are all issues that you need to see a medical professional for as soon as possible, but they are not life-threatening emergencies.

If you are lucky, you can call up your family practitioner and get a same day appointment, nipping the whole thing in the bud. However, more likely, you’ll find yourself unable to get in until next Thursday, at the exact same time that you’re supposed to be giving an important presentation at work. Not to mention that even going to work is out of the question until you get the care you need.

You have the option of going to the emergency room, but that’s a bummer. You’ll have to sit in a waiting room for hours upon hours, exposing yourself (and your child, if you’re seeking care for them) to the terrible and contagious illnesses that the other patients are waiting to be seen for. Oh, and when you get the exact same treatment that you could have gotten from your regular doctor, you’ll walk away with a hefty bill, thanks to all the hospital surcharges. Going to the ER is a big ol’ drag.

So what do you do? You go to one of the urgent care centers in your area. Not familiar with the concept of urgent care clinics? Here is a quick overview:

Four Things You Didn’t Know About Urgent Care Clinics

  1. You don’t have to have an urgent illness or injury to use urgent care clinics.

    By definition, the point of an urgent care clinic is to provide care for illnesses or injuries that require treatment within 24 hours or less. However, there are many reasons that you could take advantage of a walk in clinic, even if your condition isn’t urgent. Most urgent care clinics are open on nights and weekends. This allows you to get routine medical care (such as lab work, STD testing, or simple prescriptions) around your convenience. Sometimes, when your doctor just can’t get you in in a timely fashion, going to urgent care is a good option.

  2. You probably won’t be seen by a doctor.

    There are approximately 9,000 urgent care clinics spread across the great U.S. of A, and they employ approximately 20,000 doctors. If you do the math, each clinic likely has one or two doctors on staff. However, since many are open 24/7, and see hundreds of patients walk through their doors per week, you’d realize that this isn’t enough coverage for a doctor to see every patient. The additional medical expertise is provided by nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician’s assistants (PA).

    This is actually good news to you though, as NPs and PAs are both equipped to meet your medical needs, just like a doctor, but at a far lower cost. So in the end, you get the help you need, with a reasonable bill.

  3. Urgent care doesn’t replace your family doctor.
    Although urgent clinics are equipped to meet most of your medical needs, they don’t take the place of your own doctor. If your medical need requires ongoing support from a medical professional (such as a long term medication regimen, or ongoing medical treatments), your doctor is going to be your best bet. They will understand your medical history, and are equipped to monitor your treatment and make changes to it if necessary.

    If you visit an urgent care for a long term medical need, you’ll likely be given the care you need to meet your immediate needs, but also instructions to follow up with your regular doctor.

  4. But urgent care also provides more than a regular doctor can.

    That being said, your regular doctor is fairly limited in the treatment they can offer. There are a lot of medical treatments that you can get from urgent care that is not available at a regular doctor’s office. This includes:

    • X-rays and fracture care
    • On-site lab work
    • IV fluids
    • Much more. If you aren’t sure if the treatment you need is offered, just call your urgent care and ask!

Do you have any other questions? Share below!

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