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Urgent Care Vs. Emergency Room

This guide was produced in collaboration with the Association of Black Women’s Physicians (ABWP).

Did an out-of-the-blue injury or illness just happen? Do you need to be seen by a medical provider? When these situations occur, we’re often faced with uncertainty about where to go for care, especially if our regular doctor’s office is closed or unavailable and we need immediate assistance. While the answer isn’t simple, knowing the difference between emergency care and urgent care could save your life in a medical emergency. Nonprofit Transamerica Institute has partnered with the ABWP to give you guidance on where to seek treatment for your symptoms. 

Call 911 in a life-threatening situation
For certain medical emergencies, calling 911 for an ambulance is the right decision. This is because paramedics often can begin delivering life-saving treatment on the way to the hospital.

Emergency Room 
Hospital emergency departments provide care at any time—night or day. They are equipped and staffed for even the most complex or critical needs, including life-threatening situations ranging from heart attacks to traumatic injuries. If you visit an urgent care center with a medical emergency, they may not be equipped with the tools necessary to treat you, which could be devastating if you find yourself in a time-sensitive situation. 

Urgent Care 
Urgent care centers or walk-in clinics provide care for non-emergency illness or injury. For instance, if you’re unable to see your doctor, urgent care centers handle a variety of medical problems that need to be treated right away but are not considered emergencies. There are also telehealth urgent care visits for those who prefer to stay in the comfort of their home. Telehealth includes live videoconferencing with providers or telephone-only consultations.

ABWP offers these examples of when to visit the emergency room versus urgent care: 

Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room Guide



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