What to expect from an urgent care clinic when you're suffering from an accident injury
An urgent care clinic is a specific form of medical facility, where you can find a range of medical services for illness and accident injury. However, not everyone is familiar with them, and don’t know what to expect, or how to decide whether to seek medical attention from their regular doctor, the emergency room or the urgent care clinic for an accident injury.
If you have an illness or accident injury, here is what you can expect to find at your urgent care clinic.
What is urgent care?
Urgent care clinics are intended for an illness or accident injury that is not life-threatening, but cannot wait overnight or until a primary care doctor is available. For example, strep throat or ear infections, dehydration, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, skin infections, allergic reactions to medication and non life-threating injuries.
The American Association of Urgent Care Medicine defines urgent care as “the provision of immediate medical service offering outpatient care for the treatment of acute and chronic illness and accident injury.” The AAUCM explains that urgent care does not replace either the emergency room, nor your primary care giver — your family doctor. The urgent care clinic is useful outside of regular office hours, or when your primary caregiver is away from their clinic.
How to choose the right type of care
It makes no sense to use a baseball bat to swat a fly. Treatment at a hospital’s emergency room (ER) can be very expensive, so they’re best reserved for truly life-threatening emergencies.
Choose the emergency room for severe situations:
- compound fractures, especially where bone is exposed
- convulsions or seizures
- gunshot wounds or deep knife wounds
- uncontrollable bleeding
- moderate to severe (second to third-degree) burns
- severe abdominal pain
- signs of heart attack or stroke
- serious head, back or neck injuries
- problems related to pregnancy
Is urgent care right for your accident injury?
These are for a medical issue that may not be an accident injury, but still needs treatment in less than 24 hours. Some examples include:
- cuts that require stitches to stop bleeding
- mild to moderate asthma or other breathing problems
- eye infections or irritation
- flu or fever
- severe sore throat or cough
- skin rashes and infections
- urinary tract infections
- vomiting, diarrhea or dehydration
What you can expect
No appointment is necessary — just walk in and explain your problem to the receptionist, and you’ll be assessed quickly for appropriate medical attention.
You can also expect to fill in a number of forms, so that the urgent care clinic staff have the information they need to assess and treat you appropriately. You’ll be asked questions about your current health issue, when it began, what it affects and how severe it is.
You’ll also be asked about your medical history — infections, long-term conditions, childhood illnesses and injuries, allergies and so on. This is critical to ensure you don’t get prescribed a medication you’re allergic to, or that may cause unforeseen side effects. You can also expect lower costs than in any emergency room.
What to bringPreparing for your visit to the urgent care clinic can speed your assessment and reduce your stress. Before you leave, make sure you have:
- a list of all medications you are currently taking
- a list of medications that you need but don’t have
- notes about symptoms and changes in your condition
- a list of doctors and medical facilities you have been to before, including your primary care doctor or family doctor
- a family member or trusted friend
- questions to ask
- health insurance form or card.
Before you leave
Ask the treating physician or the receptionist about any medication or treatment prescribed. Make sure you, or the person who came with you, understands how to take them.
Ask about any needed follow-up visits, treatments or tests. Make sure you get the place, date and time in writing.
Ask about referrals and information sent to your primary care doctor or specialists.