Primary Care

Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room

When sudden injury or illness strikes, where should you turn for care? Learn the key differences between Urgent Care and the Emergency Room.

Apr. 15, 2021

When sudden injury or illness strikes, it’s important to get the right care quickly. Sometimes, it can be unclear where to turn to for care – should you call 911? Visit your nearest urgent care location? Call your provider’s answering line and wait for instruction?

Dr. Marita Michelin, Chair of Emergency Medicine at Rochester Regional Health’s Newark-Wayne Community Hospital, says there are several differences between when and why to seek care at the emergency room versus urgent care.

“Your instinct is best and helpful in guiding your access to care. If there’s a possibility of a life-threatening event, like a heart attack, or trauma that requires immediate care, like a broken bone,” says Dr. Michelin. “then choose the emergency department. If it’s a minor injury or illness, urgent care may be the better choice.”

We break down the major differences below:

Emergency Care

Rochester Regional Health's emergency medicine teams provide around-the-clock, essential care for patients with emergent illnesses and injuries. The team takes action the moment a patient arrives, using the latest technology to quickly assess, treat, stabilize, and monitor patients who are undergoing acute (emergent) illnesses or traumatic injury.

Health issues that warrant emergency room care are more severe than those that can be seen at urgent care—they are often life-threatening.

Such health problems could include:

  • A sudden change in your body, such as trouble breathing, choking, passing out, fainting, severe and persistent dizziness or weakness, an unusual or bad headache, a sudden inability to speak, see, walk, or move; coughing or throwing up blood, acute onset of severe pain, a high fever that does not get better with medicine, or seizures
  • A dangerous incident, such as inhalation of smoke or poisonous fumes, a severe allergic reaction with trouble breathing, swelling, or hives; poisoning or overdose of drug or alcohol
  • A serious injury, such as deep wounds, serious burns, heavy bleeding, a possible broken bone, particularly if the bone is pushing through the skin

“If you think you are experiencing a life-threatening injury or illness, or are not sure, we would always recommend that you call 911 or visit your nearest emergency department immediately,” said Dr. Michelin. “We are ready and here to take care of you and we take many precautions to keep you safe while you’re in our care, especially with the current Covid-19 pandemic. It’s important now more than ever to take care of your health and not put necessary care on hold because of the current public health emergency.”

“We are seeing delayed presentations of serious injuries and illnesses. This often leads to more serious life-altering complications. It is so important to receive immediate care during this crucial time in your healthcare to avoid the unnecessary and sometimes severe consequences of not seeking care.”

There are currently six Rochester Regional Health emergency medicine departments serving patients in the Western New York, Genesee County and Finger Lakes regions, including a pediatric emergency center on Portland Avenue in Rochester.

Urgent Care

Unlike the 24/7 emergency medicine departments, Rochester Regional Health’s Urgent Care Centers offer walk-in treatment of minor illnesses and injuries. Urgent care is helpful when patients can't be seen on evenings or weekends by a primary care physician or pediatrician for an urgent evaluation.

Evaluations include:

  • Common illnesses, such as colds, flu-like symptoms, earaches, COVID-19, sore throats, migraines, dehydration, diarrhea, back pain, low-grade fevers, or limited rashes
  • Minor injuries, such as sprains, animal and insect bites, poison ivy, minor cuts and burns, minor broken bones, or minor eye injuries

Urgent care centers also offer preventive care, physicals for sports and school, and occupational health for employees.

There are currently 10 Rochester Regional Health Urgent Care Centers serving patients in Monroe and Genesee Counties (each center operates on specific hours, so patients should check the information listed for the closest center).

In case of any immediate healthcare need or emergency, patients should always have the following contact information saved in their phone: primary care provider, closest emergency department, and urgent care clinic.

NEXT STEPS Don't Put Your Health On Hold

Throughout the last year, there have been so many “what if’s.” But one thing is certain – COVID-19 isn’t the only thing that needs attention. The care you needed before is the care you still need today. Whether in person, through video or phone – preventive screenings, essential care and treatment for conditions is safe and accessible.

Learn More
primary care icon