Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room: Know Where to Go

Girl high fiving a nurse

You’re injured or ill: Should you go to the emergency room? Or to an urgent care center? Or wait to see your doctor when their office opens? Here are some helpful tips for where to go for your medical conditions:

Your Doctor’s Office

This is where to get routine or preventive care, and to build a relationship with a doctor who will help you keep track of medications and your overall health. Some examples of health care matters that can be addressed at your doctor’s office include:
  • General health issues, such as earaches, headaches, mild asthma, skin rashes and sore throat
  • Immunizations and screenings
  • Routine checkups

Free 24hr Nurse Advice Line

If your doctor is not available and you’re not sure what to do, call our free 24-hour Nurse Advice Line. The Nurse Advice Line is staffed by nurses who can help you understand medical topics and make good decisions about your health. The phone number is on the back of your Virginia Premier member ID card and is available to our members 7 days a week, for free.

Urgent Care Center

Virginia Premier members can go to participating urgent care centers for conditions that need immediate attention but are not catastrophic. They are open more often than a doctor’s office, and generally have shorter waiting times and lower costs than the emergency room. Some examples of conditions that can be treated at an urgent care center include:
  • Animal bites
  • Painful urination
  • Fever and flu symptoms
  • Simple fractures and sprains
  • Infections
  • Stitches
  • Lacerations or wound care
  • X-rays
  • Minor burns
  • Minor cuts
  • Nosebleeds

Emergency Room (ER)


The ER is the place to go for serious or life-threatening conditions that might require treatment right away. The ER usually has higher costs than urgent care centers, and may have a longer wait time. Some examples of conditions that might require a trip to the ER include:

  • Bleeding that won’t stop or coughing up blood
  • Confusion
  • Drug overdoses
  • Head injury
  • Seizures or loss of consciousness
  • severe chest or abdominal pain
  • Severe cuts and burns
  • Severe vomiting or diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden change in vision

This is intended as general information and is not an inclusive list of medical problems that can be treated.  Members are encouraged to consult with their primary care doctor when selecting health care providers and facilities. During a medical emergency, go to the nearest hospital or call 911.

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