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Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

September 04, 2020, Priya Prasher, MD
Pediatric Urgent Care Center or Pediatric Emergency Department?

It is 8 pm on a Friday night. Your child is running around, falls and cuts their chin. It looks like the cut needs medical attention. The pediatrician’s office is closed for the weekend. Where do you go?

Illnesses and injuries are unexpected and often ill-timed. If you have ever wondered whether to go to an urgent care clinic or an emergency room, you are not alone. While urgent care centers have been around for decades, confusion around when to use them over the emergency department is commonplace. Furthermore, pediatric urgent cares are a newer entity, which adds to the confusion.

While the answer is not always clear-cut, it’s important to recognize the major differences between an urgent care clinic and to an emergency department.

Urgent care centers are available for the evaluation and treatment of non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries. They are open late on weeknights, weekends and holidays when typical primary care offices are closed. The medical staff at these facilities are able to prescribe medications when needed and are able to operate x-rays, use throat swabs and use urine studies to make appropriate diagnoses and treatment plans.

Emergency departments are designed to evaluate and treat patients suffering from severe or potentially life-threatening illness or injury. They are open 24 hours, 7 days a week, and have access to labs and imaging modalities not available outside of a hospital setting.

Urgent care clinics and emergency departments across the country are not always staffed with medical professionals who specialize in pediatric care. Phoenix Children’s Hospital offers four pediatric urgent care clinics across the city, which allows families to bring their children for assessment and treatment by medical professionals who have trained in pediatrics and pediatric emergency care. Our urgent care clinics are same-day clinics capable of seeing children who have a variety of symptoms, like fevers, colds or flu symptoms, rashes, cuts requiring stiches, sprains or possible fractures.

Common complaints related to emergency department visits across the country are associated expenses, crowding and wait times that often lead to a delay in care. Too many patients who use emergency departments do not require emergent care and are unaware of alternative, less expensive care options.

Keep in mind that the staff at urgent care clinics will help get your child to the correct level of care if they are concerned or are unable to deal with your child’s health problem at their facility.

For our locations and a more detailed list of conditions we see in our urgent care clinics and emergency department see our website: https://www.phoenixchildrens.org/centers-programs/urgent-care.

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