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urgent care

Alternative Names 
minor emergency care, walk-in clinic

Urgent care refers to a special type of setting where medical care is given for minor emergencies. In this case, care is given outside of a hospital emergency department. No appointment is necessary.

What is the information for this topic? 
Urgent care has become quite popular. It is used for minor illnesses that do not require a visit to the emergency room. Often, urgent care centers are clinics that look like a doctor's office.

In some cases, a person may actually go to a hospital emergency department. A nurse or other healthcare professional may examine the person. The healthcare professional may send the person to an urgent care area that is run by the hospital. Many hospitals now run urgent care clinics that are close to the emergency department. A person who doesn't seem to need emergency department care may be sent to the urgent care area for treatment. This often results in faster, better care.

Many people like urgent care because:
  • urgent care centers do not usually require an appointment
  • many urgent care centers are open outside of normal business hours. This is helpful for minor illnesses that occur at night or on weekends.
  • urgent care is also helpful for parents who work during the day and find their children are sick when they get home
  • urgent care centers are also good for people who need to be seen, but cannot get a prompt appointment with their regular healthcare provider
Urgent care settings can be quite different depending on the specific center. Some are set up just like a regular doctor's office. Others look like an emergency department. Urgent care centers are not set up for major emergencies. For example, a person who thinks they may be having a heart attack should not go to an urgent care center.

Because an appointment is not needed for urgent care centers, there may be a long wait. However, quick care may be received if the center is not busy. Some people go to urgent care centers for routine health issues. For example, some people go to urgent care centers to get their blood pressure checked.

Treatment at an urgent care center is similar in some ways to an emergency department or doctor's office.
  • A person registers when they arrive. Basic personal and insurance information is requested.
  • When the time comes, a person is taken to a room or the treatment area. The temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure are usually checked.
  • A healthcare professional then comes into the room. He or she will ask questions about the problem and examine the person. People should answer all questions honestly and completely.
  • A treatment plan is then formed. For best results, all instructions should be followed.
In some cases, treatment may involve referral to a doctor's office or emergency department. This is done if the condition needs close follow-up or is serious.

People should let their regular healthcare provider know if they go to an urgent care center. This is especially important if medications were given that may interfere with other treatments.

Author: Adam Brochert, MD
Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
Last Updated: 05/06/00
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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