Where Do You Go?
Urgent care or emergency room: Know which to visit
Courtesy of CHRISTUS Health: Louisiana
Deciding whether or not to visit the emergency room is something most everyone has struggled with before. Many people aren’t sure when to utilize an emergency room, go to urgent care or call 9-1-1. The answer isn’t always obvious, but knowing the difference between urgent care and emergency care – and where to seek treatment – could be life-saving in the case of a medical emergency. It can also make a difference in treatment and costs incurred during the visit.
Emergency rooms should be used to treat patients who are in immediate need of care with symptoms such as: • Chest pain • Abdominal pain • Shortness of breath • Stroke-like symptoms • Loss of consciousness or vision
• Broken bones
• Severe cuts
• Falls with injury or while taking blood thinners
• Sudden severe head pain or injury
• Suspected poisoning
• Extreme pain, especially if the cause is unknown
• Repeated vomiting
• Allergic reaction that causes difficulty swallowing
CHRISTUS Bossier Emergency Hospital and CHRISTUS Highland Medical Center’s new emergency room are staffed 24/7 with physicians, nurses and other medical professionals trained in emergency medicine. In the ER, patients are triaged to assess the severity of their conditions. Patients with lifeor limb-threatening conditions receive immediate attention. ER physicians can treat any urgent need, but some of those needs can also be met in an urgent care setting, which can save the patient both time and money.
At urgent care centers like CHRISTUS Velocity Urgent Care, patients are treated for a variety of medical problems quickly and, in most cases, without an appointment. Though urgent, these symptoms don’t usually warrant an emergency:
• Minor fever
• Minor lacerations
• Coughs, congestion and sinus problems
• Animal and bug bites
• Allergic reactions (non-lifethreatening)
It is important to note that neither emergency rooms nor urgent care centers should see patients to help manage chronic conditions. Chronic diseases and conditions are best managed by the patient’s primary care provider, often in conjunction with the care of a specialist.
If you find yourself in a situation where you or someone you know is in immediate danger, the first thing you should do is call 9-1-1. This step is frequently forgotten but is crucial in an emergency situation.
Call 9-1-1 if you are experiencing:
• Loss of consciousness
• Signs of a heart attack (chest pain, pain in left arm or jaw, sudden weakness or dizziness lasting longer than two minutes)
• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
• Life- or limb-threatening injury
Do not drive yourself to the hospital if you have severe chest pain or bleeding, feel faint, your vision is impaired, or have heart attack symptoms or stroke. Emergency responders are trained to stabilize patients before they go to an emergency room and provide care en route to the hospital.
Emergencies are stressful whether it’s happening to you, a loved one or a stranger. Knowing how to use emergency rooms and urgent care centers will help get you to the appropriate level of care.