Skip to Content

Published on August 25, 2015

Urgent Care vs. Emergency Department – Where Should I Go?

Sick manA study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics found that, of patients who had visited the emergency room but were not admitted to the hospital, 48 percent went there because their doctor’s office wasn’t open.

While the emergency room is a great resource, it is not always your best alternative to seeing your family doctor. Let’s break down when to use MercyCare Urgent Care versus Mercy’s Emergency Department.

When should I go to Urgent Care?

Go to your nearest MercyCare Urgent Care clinic when you have a health issue that needs immediate attention but is not a life-threatening emergency. When you experience a minor accident or sudden illness and your healthcare provider is not open or is unable to fit you into their schedule, Urgent Care is the right place to be.

The advantages of MercyCare Urgent Care include:

  • Similar resources as a primary care facility
  • No appointment required
  • Less expensive than an ER visit and similarly priced to a primary care visit, depending on your insurance

Go to MercyCare Urgent Care for:

  • Cold, cough or the flu
  • Severe sore throat
  • Ear, eye or skin infection
  • Simple cut
  • Fever without a rash
  • Minor burn
  • Muscle sprain or strain
  • Respiratory infection
  • Bone fracture
  • Painful urination
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Migraine headache
  • STD testing

Aside from treating the conditions listed above, MercyCare Urgent Care clinics can also provide flu and pneumonia shots, ear irrigation, school and sports physicals, and wart removal.

Remember: Urgent Care is NOT the place to go if you are experiencing chest pain or stroke symptoms. They will send you to the hospital and you may have wasted precious minutes.

When should I go to the Emergency Department?

Go to Mercy’s Emergency Department if you are experiencing a health issue that requires immediate attention and is life- or limb-threatening if not treated immediately. Use your best judgment – but if you are not sure, go the Emergency Department.

The advantages of Mercy’s Emergency Department include:

  • Immediate care
  • Open 24/7
  • No appointment required
  • State-of-the-art technology to handle serious health care emergencies
  • All Mercy Emergency Department physicians are board-certified in emergency medicine – a level of experience and education not required by every emergency facility

Go to Mercy’s Emergency Department for:

  • Heart attack symptoms (Chest pain; shortness of breath; pain/discomfort in arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach; nausea; dizziness; cold sweats; unexplained feelings of anxiety, fatigue, or weakness)
  • Stroke symptoms (Sudden numbness or weakness of the arm, leg or face; sudden confusion or trouble understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; sudden severe headache with no known cause; face drooping; speech difficulty)
  • Persistent shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Severe pain in your abdomen
  • A loss of balance or fainting
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Weakness, paralysis or numbness
  • Severe heart palpitations
  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Repeated vomiting
  • A severe allergic reaction
  • Sudden testicular pain or swelling
  • Loss of vision
  • Poisoning or suspected overdose
  • Seizure without previous diagnosis of epilepsy
  • A newborn with a fever
  • A fall while taking blood-thinning medications
  • Head or eye injuries
  • A broken or dislocated joint
  • A deep cut
  • A serious burn

Even though MercyCare Urgent Care and Mercy’s Emergency Department are important resources, you should still establish a primary care physician and visit him or her regularly. Having a doctor with knowledge of your medical background can help keep you healthier and can simplify the referral process should you ever need to see a specialist. They will also help you stay on top of your annual check-ups and age-appropriate tests.

If you are in need of a primary care physician, call our Find a Doc line at (319) 369-4444, or learn about our providers. You can also find the MercyCare Urgent Care clinic closest to you or learn more about Mercy’s Emergency Department.

Always call 9-1-1 for immediate help.

Section Links

Health Education

Login to MyChart
Find A Doc