Urgent Care vs. the Emergency Room and Choosing the Right Care Setting

Urgent Care vs Emergency Room
You wake up on a Saturday morning, and your skin is on fire. Your throat burns, your body aches, your muscles are weak, and you know what you’re experiencing is more than the common cold. You also know that your doctor’s office is closed on Saturdays. What do you do? Do you go to an urgent care setting, or straight to the emergency room? Both care settings are designed to treat sudden illnesses and injuries, but how can you decide which is right when something goes wrong? To help you make the most appropriate decision from a treatment and cost perspective, we’ve outlined the primary differences between these two facility types, and when to seek care from each.

What is an Emergency Room?

An emergency room is typically open 24 hours a day and is designed to treat patients who are suffering from a life-threatening illness or injury. Emergency departments are staffed by medical providers and designed with equipment to accommodate emergency surgeries and other advanced treatments, including MRIs, radiology labs, ultrasounds, and CAT scans.

What is Urgent Care?

An urgent care setting is typically open five to seven days a week and is designed to treat patients who are not able to make a same-day appointment with their primary care provider when experiencing a non-life threatening sudden illness or injury. Urgent care centers are staffed by medical providers able to prescribe medications. Staff is usually able to obtain x-rays and blood work.

​Where to Seek Treatment?

Illness or Injury
Urgent Care
Emergency Room
Mild asthma attack
Back pain
Severe bleeding
Bumps, cuts, and scrapes
Minor burn
Chest pain
Difficulty breathing
Eye irritation, swelling, or pain
Fever (adult)
Minor fracture
Minor headaches
Severe head trauma
Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
Foreign objects in the eyes or nose
Sinus pain
Sore throat
Sprains or strains
Vision loss

Where to Go if You’re Unsure?

Use your best judgment when deciding if you should go to urgent care, the emergency room, or call an ambulance. If you arrive at urgent care, and the staff determines that you need a higher level of care, then they will direct you to an emergency room. Keep in mind that there are some cases where symptoms, such as chest pain, may make you fear you are experiencing a heart attack—a condition that should be treated in an emergency room. However, chest pain may also be attributed to heartburn or anxiety. Fear of a heart attack that is, in reality, a non-life threatening condition is a common reason why individuals will visit an emergency room when an urgent care center may have been most appropriate. When you are unsure what is causing your symptoms, however, and you fear you may be experiencing a life-threatening emergency, use your best judgment and seek immediate care.

The Benefits of Visiting an Urgent Care Center for Non-Life Threatening Conditions

If you have never been to an urgent care setting and are not sure if such a facility is best suited to treat a sudden, onset condition, know that:

  • Urgent care centers can treat patients faster and more quickly, sending them home to rest and recover.
  • Whether you have insurance coverage or will be paying out-of-pocket, the cost to obtain treatment from an urgent care center is typically less than the cost to visit an emergency room
  • Like an emergency room, you do not need an appointment; walk-ins are welcome, and many are open during evenings and on weekends when primary care offices are often closed.

Walk-Ins Welcome at Nova Health Urgent Care

Nova Health Urgent Care Centers are conveniently located in Eugene, Springfield, Junction City, Veneta, Cottage Grove, Florence, and Roseburg. We accept walk-ins, or you may schedule an appointment online to reduce your wait time. For times when you cannot immediately see your primary care provider, or for non-life threatening injuries or illnesses, our team of care professionals is here to provide a diagnosis and treatment plan. Find a Nova Health urgent care location near you.

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