5 Crucial Ways in Which Urgent Care Differs from Emergency Care

5 Crucial Ways in Which Urgent Care Differs from Emergency Care

It is Saturday; you fall and sprain your ankle walking down the stairs. After a while, you realize you can no longer put any weight on your ankle, which is painful and has since swollen. Do you drive to the emergency room or visit a Summitview Urgent Care for medical help?

Because they operate differently from a regular doctor’s office, ERs and urgent care clinics are often difficult to differentiate. Knowing which one to visit, however, can save you precious time and protect your health. Here is a look at the key distinctions between these two facilities.

Medical Conditions

Urgent care clinics treat medical conditions that cannot wait but are not exactly medical emergencies. Some reasons you may visit such a facility include minor burns and cuts, skin conditions, muscle or back pain, and diarrhea. If your symptoms are debilitating, you can also seek urgent care for UTIs and colds.

In contrast, ERs cater to patients with severe, limb or life-threatening conditions. You need to go to the ER if you are experiencing signs of a heart attack or stroke, uncontrolled bleeding, or shortness of breath. A fracture with a protruding bone is also more suited to the ER than urgent care.

Severity of Medical Condition

Medical conditions are often not a sufficient distinction between ERs and urgent care clinics. You can visit either facility for headache treatment, for instance, with your choice depending on the severity. ERs are the place to go for conditions that are potentially fatal or are causing severe, unbearable pain.

On the other hand, you can be better treated at an urgent care facility if your injury or illness is relatively minor. This is also true for when you do not have any underlying medical conditions and are only experiencing one symptom.


The ER department of any hospital will usually be staffed round-the-clock with physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. All of these healthcare providers are trained to provide emergency treatment. Moreover, the ER often has quick access to specialists like cardiologists.

Normally, urgent care clinics are staffed with nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. Some may even have a physician available. The team will usually have access to imaging and lab tests that can help them diagnose and treat non-life-threatening conditions.


Like ERs, urgent care facilities are usually open beyond the regular 9 to 5 business hours. This timeframe makes them the best place to go for non-emergency medical conditions because they are less crowded. In fact, you will receive treatment faster at an urgent care clinic than in an ER.

The short wait times are unique to urgent care clinics because ERs are often chaotic and crowded. If you have a serious but manageable problem, you might get ignored in an ER.  An urgent care clinic, on the other hand, may treat you on the spot.


One final distinction between ERs and urgent care clinics is location. ERs are located within the main facility of major hospitals. Urgent care clinics, on the other hand are more conveniently located. You can find them in commercial plazas, shopping centers, and other places in your local area.

When to Visit an Urgent Care Centre

An emergency room might be able to treat most of the conditions treated at an urgent care clinic. But ERs often have to deal with severe, life-threatening conditions. If you go in with back pain, you may sit in the waiting room for hours before someone attends to you.

An urgent care clinic is the best place to go for conditions that are not a medical emergency but cannot wait too long either. You will enjoy a shorter wait period, more convenience, and more affordable service. If you have a concern you think an urgent care clinic can resolve, call today to learn more.

Category Health

Skye Marshall

Ivy Skye Marshall: Ivy, a social justice reporter, covers human rights issues, social movements, and stories of community resilience.