When kids are feeling ‘under the weather’, there’s no telling how urgent the problem might be. What looks like a mild cough or stomach upset can actually lead to a serious medical situation that requires immediate attention. If you feel as though your child’s illness or injury just can’t wait for an appointment with their primary pediatrician, there are two main options to choose from.
You can take your child to an emergency care facility, which has emergency care hours, or take them to the emergency room. How do you know which is the best? What is the difference between an emergency room and an emergency care clinic?
Urgent Care Basics
Also called after-hours, acute care, quick care, and ready care, emergency care facilities are designed to provide conventional medical care for ailments, including ear infections, sore throats, and injuries. People go to emergency care clinics for many reasons, including:
- They are designed to stay open outside of traditional business hours, allowing patients to be seen late into the night if needed.
- They have the ability to provide comprehensive care, offering x-ray and laboratory services.
- They have certified nurse practitioners, licensed doctors, and physician assistants available.
- They are capable of diagnosing and treating a variety of conditions and injuries.
- They have the staff, technology, and equipment available to treat patients in a variety of emergency situations. However, most emergency clinics do not have access to more sophisticated equipment, such as an MRI or CT scan.
Because they are not a substitute for your regular doctor, emergency care facilities do not refill medications or provide ongoing care for chronic conditions. While some clinics can provide IV fluids, many do not offer this service. Patients who have suffered severe injuries, major trauma, strokes or heart attacks may need to be transferred to a hospital where they will receive the care they need.
Emergency Treatment or Emergency Room
When a child is sick or an emergency situation arises, people become anxious and overwhelmed. This can make it difficult to determine whether to go to an emergency care center or the emergency room. If a child has a problem that their pediatrician can usually treat, it is best to take them to an emergency care clinic when their pediatrician is not available. The emergency care doctor will then send the medical record of your child’s appointment to their pediatrician, reminding them of what happened at the clinic. If the problem is something that the emergency clinic can’t diagnose or treat, they may send the patient to the emergency room for further evaluation.
People who face life-threatening injuries, illnesses, or are at risk of losing their appendages should go to the emergency room. For example, a baby who has trouble breathing at night should be taken to the emergency room rather than emergency care.
Ask-A-Nurse Services offers additional round-the-clock assistance to those seeking medical attention. In most cases, the nurse can direct the patient to an appropriate medical facility, whether it is a hospital emergency room or an emergency care clinic.
Emergency situations and accidents are not easy to deal with, especially when small children are involved. Knowing more about the resources available to you can help you stay calm and think clearly during the next emergency situation.