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Quick Dose: When Should I go to the Emergency Department?

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Not sure where to go for medical care when you’re sick or hurt? Understanding the difference between the emergency department and immediate, or convenient, care centers will help you get the right care at the right time.

For life-threatening illnesses and severe health problems, emergency rooms are recommended. EDs are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and offer the widest range of services, including diagnostic testing and access to specialists for conditions such as heart attack, stroke, head injuries or severe allergic reactions.

The goal of emergency and trauma treatment is to stabilize patients and help them through the most critical part of their illness or injury. When you arrive in the ED, a triage nurse will take your vital signs and evaluate your symptoms to help prioritize the order patients are seen. You may experience a longer wait time if your condition isn’t life-threatening, as other patients ahead of you might have more severe symptoms.

If you’re experiencing a minor illness such as a sore throat or a twisted ankle, an immediate or convenient care center is a good option.

Immediate care centers are open during normal business hours, as well as after normal hours, including evenings and weekends. In addition to shorter wait times, immediate care centers accept walk-ins, so you don’t need an appointment to be seen by a physician. If you prefer to make an appointment, many immediate care centers offer online scheduling.

For more on the differences between emergency care and immediate care, consult the infographic below:

Quick Dose: When Should I go to the Emergency Department?

Download Quick Dose: When Should I go to the Emergency Department?