The Differences Between Urgent Care and the Emergency Room

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With Urgent Care centers popping up throughout South Jersey, many are wondering how they differ from emergency rooms.

“One of the major rules I try to tell my patients is if you have a medical condition that you would normally see your family doctor for and you can’t get it on the same day, that type of situation would be appropriate for the urgent care setting,” said Dr. Robert Decker, an urgent care Physician at Inspira Health Network.

And many Urgent Cares have the tools to help patients suffering from a wide variety of illnesses.

“They treat a wide variety of medical conditions including upper respiratory infections, sore throats, ear pain, pink eye, lower respiratory infections, rashes, lacerations and deal with musculoskeletal injuries as well as your fractures and concussions," said Decker. "At the Inspira Urgent Care we have resources such as x-ray, lab work [and] they can do cultures, strep throat as well as mono testing.” 

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He believes it’s important for everyone to know and understand when you should go to an Urgent Care versus an emergency room.

“Continued education to our patients is extremely important as physicians," said Decker. "And having the patient understand where they need to go and to receive the appropriate care at the proper facility will not only save time, but it will ensure that they receive that appropriate care. And, it will decrease stress in a very stressful situation.” 

Although Urgent Care facilities have x-ray machines and can help those suffering from sprains and strains, he says it’s best to visit an ER for more serious injuries and illnesses.

“If you have things like severe chest pain, shortness of breath, where you can’t catch your breath, [or[ if you have severe abdominal pain that may require further scans, severe bleeding, or head trauma from a motor vehicle accident that requires further observation, that would be an emergency care visit,” said Decker.

The reason being they have the ability to monitor more severe problems.

“At the emergency room, their resources are a little bit more expansive for monitoring of more severe medical conditions as well as ultrasounds, MRIs, CAT scans, and EKG monitoring systems,” said Decker.

If you’re ever unsure of whether you should be treated at an Urgent Care or emergency room he says to call 911 to ensure you get the treatment you need.


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