Urgent care medicine is the treatment of patients who have pressing or serious medical problems, but who are not able to see their regular physician. Urgent care clinics, sometimes called walk-in clinics, do not take appointments and are often open late and on weekends and holidays. They provide access to medical care for patients whose regular doctor's office is closed, or whose medical problem is too immediate to wait until they can get in to see their regular doctor.
Urgent care is related to emergency care, but the two are different. Emergency care is for patients who are critically ill or injured, meaning they are likely to die if they don't receive medical treatment right away. Urgent care is for patients whose problems are not life-threatening, but they still need to be seen within 24 hours.
Some of the issues typically treated at an urgent care clinic include:
Sprains, strains, and minor broken bones
Urinary tract infections
Mild allergic reactions
Fever and flu
Minor wounds that require stitches
Mild asthma attacks
Some urgent care clinics even offer routine preventive care without an appointment, such as vaccines.
Urgent care physicians work in a fast-paced environment and see a variety of clients, injuries and illnesses. They must be knowledgeable about the medical care of patients of all ages, genders, and all common medical problems. Urgent care doctors do not perform surgery or care for patients in the hospital, but their work is never dull, with new and unexpected cases arriving every day. They provide an incredibly valuable health care service in the United States; they relieve the pressure on emergency rooms, while at the same time, many people rely on urgent care as their primary health care.
It's good to know that wherever you go, at any time of day, there's always a doctor available.