What are urgent-care centers? An urgent care center is a healthcare facility that is open in cases where you don’t have access to a regular healthcare center.
Urgent care centers are like walk-in retail medical clinics, except that instead of treating patients with routine illnesses such as bronchitis and colds, urgent care facilities are equipped to handle more serious conditions, such as fractures, sprained ankles, and other severe injuries.
If you or a family member is injured in an accident, injured at work, or has a broken bone, you can use an urgent care center to receive treatment for the injury as soon as possible. In contrast to primary care physicians, who can diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries, specialists (also called specialty physicians) perform more complex, specialized exams and treatments.
Because they receive more extensive training and specialize in only a certain field, specialists are typically assigned to hospitals or other healthcare facilities, where they can provide more comprehensive and advanced healthcare.
The difference between a primary care physician and a specialist is that the primary care physician will refer patients to a specialist when they are ill; the specialist will actually take them to the appropriate destination, whether it’s a hospital or other medical-care unit.
You might think that urgent care clinics would be expensive. In fact, they are not. Unlike primary care physicians and other healthcare providers, these clinics will not charge you a co-pay (a fee for each treatment, regardless of the outcome).
This means that you will not have to pay anything extra for the initial visit. If you need surgery or a costly procedure, you will be referred to an orthopedic or neurological clinic. Many of these clinics also provide nurse practitioners or physician assistants.
Nurse practitioners are trained nurses who have additional training for additional specific fields such as pediatrics or women’s health. Many have a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s in the same field. Physician assistants, also called PAs, have a four-year bachelor’s degree and four years of experience.
The majority of urgent care clinics have a list of doctors or specialists that they refer patients. (In some states, all physicians must be registered with the state.) Most nurse practitioners and physician assistants will work under the supervision of a licensed practical nurse, or LPN.
This person is the person that takes the medical history of the patient, performs some basic lab tests, x-rays and interacts with the patient. Some may also provide sedation. When a nurse practitioner or physician assistant gives anesthesia, it is supervised by someone else on staff.
Many people visit urgent care clinics for a variety of reasons. X-rays are sometimes necessary when doctors suspect that a bone fracture may not heal using traditional methods. In addition, blood tests may be required to diagnose certain conditions, such as diabetes.
There may also be a need for MRIs or CT scans in some cases. In some clinics, a person may also be seen if they are suffering from heart disease, high blood pressure, or mental illness. Some facilities offer more comprehensive services than others. Some clinics have a full-time physician on staff, while others may only have one or two physicians.
Generally, those with a physician assistant or nurse practitioner on staff are able to receive more comprehensive healthcare than those in urgent care centers without physicians. However, many physicians choose to work at urgent care clinics simply because they like the ambiance and the convenience of working at an actual clinic rather than a hospital.
The ambiance can often be more congenial to patients. In addition to seeing a physician, some patients may also see a podiatrist, orthopedist, or another specialist at the urgent care clinics. Some primary care physicians do not treat conditions that require a hospital stay.
If you are interested in seeing a physician at a facility that doesn’t provide a full-time waiting period, you will need to book an appointment as quickly as possible. These types of clinics often prefer to see patients immediately.
If you want to avoid the feeling of being rushed, you should ensure that you have your urgent care appointments booked as soon as you know you need treatment.