Urgent Care VS Emergency Room: What’s The Difference?

Posted on by Westcare Clinic

Urgent Care Vs Emergency Room

What is the difference between urgent care and the ER?

When you’re sick or injured, you’ve probably heard it both ways:

“You should go to the emergency room right now”, or “You might want to get that looked at in urgent care“. What is the difference between these two types of clinics, and when should you go to either of them?

A trip to the ER

The emergency room is for immediate, generally life-threatening conditions. If you or a loved one is in danger of dying or suffering the loss of a limb, it’s time to visit the ER. The other major reason for a trip to the emergency room is time. The ER is open around the clock, and if you have something that needs to get taken care of but it’s late at night, you can try visiting an emergency medical team.

Visiting urgent care

There’s never been a hit TV medical drama titled “Urgent Care”, and there’s a reason for that. An urgent care clinic sees people who need same-day treatment, but it’s not set up to deal with immediate, possibly fatal conditions. In general you can seek out an urgent care clinic when you’re sick or hurt enough to the point that you can’t work today. Urgent care clinics tend to be open later than family practices, but typically close before late night. The doctors here can always send you along to the ER if your condition worsens to the point where it becomes an emergency.

When and why to visit either facility

Nobody wants to be sick or hurt, but it’s better to have a condition that requires only a short trip to urgent care. At an ER you get put into the system as you walk in and register. Due to the priorities of triage, you might get bumped back further and further as more serious cases come in. An ER doctor is not going to see your case of a broken nose while a car crash victim is on a stretcher. Since the conditioners that people bring to urgent care tend to all be of a more relatively mild nature, you’re far more likely to get seen sooner for a less serious injury if you go to urgent care. Some of these clinics even allow you to call in ahead of time for even faster service.

Going to an ER when your condition is not life-threatening might cost you more in the long run, too. Many insurance providers charge more for non-emergency care in these facilities. Depending on the circumstances you could also delay care for someone with a graver injury or illness if you go to the ER when it’s not necessary..
Urgent Care Lacey
Here is a review of certain symptoms, and at which point they become cases for the ER rather than urgent care:

Breathing

Light asthma symptoms, plus nausea or slight breathing difficulties might be treatable in the urgent care clinic. More severe conditions, such as anaphylactic shock, difficulty catching your breath or closure of the airway require immediate attention. Call 911 immediately if you or someone with you has these symptoms.

Illness

When you aren’t feeling so hot, you might have an array of symptoms. Even such things as vomiting, dehydration, excessive sweating and fever are not emergency conditions by default. You can often get help for sicknesses with these symptoms at an urgent care clinic. Remember that conditions can change at any time, and that sometimes a more serious ailment might seem mild at first. A qualified physician can make a judgement call to send you to the ER from urgent care as needed.

Pain or injury

If your have abdominal cramps due to heat or an unknown cause, you can likely get treated at the urgent care facility. A pulled back is painful and inconvenient, but probably not an immediate emergency. If the pain is in your chest or left arm, this is a possible sign of a heart attack. Such events are serious and you should always seek emergency treatment for them.

A broken bone might not necessarily require a trip to the ER. If you suspect a compound fracture, go ahead and see an emergency team. Sprains, strains and twisted ankles are some injuries that are not as serious as breaks. After a car accident in which ytou or a passenger suffered an injury, it’s always prudent to seek emergency care.

Minor scrapes that bleed only a little or not at all are probably not emergency conditions. If you’ve cut yourself and the wound is bleeding freely, especially if it spurts blood in time with your pulse, that is a serious issue that requires immediate care at the ER.

Drugs and Poison

Drug interactions might be relatively harmless, but they can just as often turn fatal. If you suspect that a medication is having a reaction with another drug, go to the ER. When you find someone who appears to have overdosed on prescription or illicit drugs, they must be seen by emergency medical staff. Such symptoms include loss of consciousness, cessation or extremely labored breathing or seizures and convulsions.


Remember that nothing is more important than your health. Making the right choice about where and when to seek treatment can be the difference between life and death. By heading to the ER only when necessary you make it easier to treat your ailments as well as for people with greater need to get seen for theirs. The West Care Clinic in Olympia is your place for urgent care in Thurston County. We’re open seven days a week and can see walk-ins.

Our staff is well-trained and has extensive experience in treating all manner of injury. You get seen promptly so that we can help to fix whatever’s ailing you. Should the situation require more immediate attention, rest assured that our nurses and doctors have the training and judgement to know when to refer you to a specialist or to the ER.

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Westcare Clinic's urgent care physicians provide patient services on weekdays and weekends for your convenience. Don't put your health on hold. Stop by today.
(360) 357-9392