Urgent Care or ER Center? How To Decide Where To Go For Your Emergency?


When your doctor isn’t available, is it best to take your child to a hospital ER, a stand-alone ER, or urgent care center? Let’s say it’s a Sunday, and your 9-year old is limping across the living room complaining of severe ankle pain after soccer practice. What do you do when you can’t get to your doctor? Just a few years ago, we didn’t have many options. If Doc Magoo was inaccessible, we’d rush off to the nearest hospital emergency room only to be greeted by a 3-hour wait (at the very least) and a hefty ER bill 14 days later.

Now, with a growing number of emergency care and urgent care clinics in Tyler, Longview, & Galveston you have more choices available for urgent medical needs on evenings and weekends. But free-standing emergency clinics are fast becoming the sensible solution with overcrowded hospital ERs and limited capabilities and hours of operation at urgent care centers. Here’s what you should know about what stand-alone emergency rooms to help you when you need it the most.

How is Urgent Care Different from Freestanding Emergency Rooms?

While urgent care facilities treat minor medical emergencies like sinus infections or a last-minute refill of high blood pressure meds, stand-alone emergency rooms are prepared to deal with more complex medical emergencies like:

  • Shock
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Deep wounds
  • Head injuries
  • Chest pain
  • Incessant vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • A serious impact from a fall or car accident
  • Burns
  • Unconsciousness

Urgent care centers are staffed with nurse practitioners and primary care doctors who can only perform basic labs and provide simple medications.   Freestanding emergency rooms provide the care of a board-certified emergency room doctors with full labs and complex work-ups for things like liver function and kidney function.  Just like a Hospital ER, they can provide IV treatment when necessary and monitor you for up to 23 hours before discharge or hospitalization – and without the long wait times when you arrive.

Longer Hours For Urgent Care, But Not 24-7 Operation

Urgent care facilities have longer hours than doctor’s offices but they typically aren’t open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week like an emergency room center. Some are open until 12 am, some until 9 pm, and surprisingly, some are only open until 5 pm like doctor’s offices. If your child wakes up at 3 am with a nosebleed that won’t stop, instead of looking for the nearest urgent care center, try a stand-alone emergency care center. You won’t wait like most hospital emergency rooms and these facilities are open 24 hours a day.

Lastly, while some urgent care facilities carry their own diagnostic equipment, some do not. So if you think complex blood work, a CT Scan, Ultrasound or X-Ray, may be needed, consider an ER center and save yourself the trip to an urgent care clinic.   As these facilities are likely not fully equipped with diagnostic equipment.

Of course, if your situation is ultra severe, call 911.

What do Freestanding Emergency Rooms Specialize In?

Stand-alone emergency care centers specialize in emergency walk-ins and for those who don’t want to pay ambulance fees. They are a perfect solution for patients who need to be seen right away before symptoms get worse. Emergency care centers are also able to stabilize injuries and get the patient to surgery as soon as possible. Most free-standing ERs take all commercial insurance and offer simple, affordable out of pocket pay rates for cash patients.

Come see your local board certified ER Physician in Bullard & Kilgore at our Hospitality ER near you.