Should I go to the Emergency Room or Urgent Care Center?

Should the cut on your finger or waking up with heart pain send you to the emergency room or an urgent care center? Know the answers here.

If you cut a part of your finger accidentally while cutting veggies, you must be thinking about where to go? Or if you wake up with heart pain at midnight, what to do? Do you need to go to the emergency room, or do you need urgent care? It is a genuine question that arises in every person’s mind when they face an injury, wound, or other concern. Let’s explore further to clear these questions.

Urge to go to Urgent Care Center

When you face non-emergency situations, urgent care centers are worth going to. If you face back pain in the middle of the night or you experience fractures at the gym, if you face continuous vomiting or fever, it’s time to go to an urgent care center. Here is a list that describes when to go to urgent care:

  • Bumps, scrapes, cuts
  • Back pain
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea
  • Fractures
  • X-rays
  • Blood work
  • Ear or sinus pain
  • Cough or sore throat
  • Fever
  • Vaccine complications
  • Animal bites
  • Lab services
  • Stitches
  • Sprains and strains
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Dehydration
  • Rashes or burns
  • Swelling or pain in eyes or nose
  • Abdominal pain

Whenever you face any of these conditions, urgent care centers are there to help you. You may be confused because if these kinds of assistance are also available in the emergency room, then why is there a need to go to urgent care? Let’s explore the reasons.


One of the most valid reasons to opt for urgent care for these concerns is urgent care is always more affordable than the Emergency Room. Even a ride in the ambulance to ER would be an expensive choice. So, when you have minor issues like these, there’s no need to go to emergency rooms.

It may take a while to reach emergency rooms, but urgent care is easier to go to. It’s convenient to find urgent care at nearby locations, like plazas or shopping centers.

Time is one of the biggest barriers when you need to go to the emergency room. So when you have an opportunity to go to urgent care for minor fractures, injuries, abdominal pain, and other minor issues, then you should not waste time and go to urgent care instead of the emergency room. It takes less than an hour to resolve your concerns in urgent care centers.

Emergency care should only be used for emergency situations. When the number of patients increases in ER for non-emergency medical concerns, then those who are more likely to have emergency room assistance would suffer. People facing emergency medical concerns have to wait and become increasingly distressed because of those who can also go to urgent care. It is unfair.

However, there are some specific concerns that can only be resolved in emergency rooms. Let’s take a look at those.

Need for Emergency Room

Emergency rooms would be ideal for extreme emergency situations. It means when you face a life-threatening condition or an extremely irritable condition, you should go to emergency rooms. Those life-threatening conditions include:

  • Chest pain
  • Stroke
  • Severe bleeding
  • Head trauma
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of vision
  • Serious burns
  • Concussion/confusion
  • Broken bones and dislocated joints
  • Seizures
  • Severe cuts that may require stitches
  • Facial lacerations
  • Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy

When you experience these kinds of emergency situations, you are urged to go to a nearby emergency room. These medical conditions require advanced and rapid treatments that can be treated in emergency rooms.

Difference between Urgent Care Center and Emergency room

Here are a few differences between emergency rooms and urgent care.

  • The Severity of Health Concerns

An emergency department is responsible for treating life-threatening health concerns of all ages. Those who instantly require medical attention should opt for emergency rooms.

Urgent care is the middle ground between the emergency department and primary care provider. Urgent care is a way to go for those who have minor illnesses and injuries.

  • Hours and Staff

Emergency departments have a staff of physicians’ assistants, physicians, nurse trainees, and nurse practitioners. The staff perform their duties rapidly and are expert providers in specialties like neurology, cardiology, and orthopedics. Emergency departments also have laboratory and imaging resources that need to deliver care for the life-threatening condition after diagnosis.

On the other hand, urgent care centers have a staff full of physicians’ assistants, nurses, and nurse practitioners. A few centers may have physicians as well. Urgent care providers offer basic imaging and other lab tests for diagnosis and treatment plans. Urgent care centers have an established list of conditions and set hours; therefore, it is less costly and operates in a shorter period of time.

Prepare Yourself

It does not matter whether you go to the emergency department or urgent care center, you should take all your medications, including vitamins, over-the-counter medicines, and supplements, along with you. You should consider the dosage and timing of these medications too. Also, try to bring the list of medical procedures or surgeries, or allergies you may have had in your past. Both urgent care and emergency rooms can prescribe prescriptions. Therefore, it is essential to take all this information with you while going to the emergency room or urgent care.

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