When to Visit the ER vs Urgent Care by Dr Samuel Bride

Dr. Samuel Bride
3 min readNov 7, 2022

Have you ever been injured or fallen ill and wondered if you should go to an urgent care clinic or the emergency room? It can be a tough decision to make, especially when you’re feeling crummy, says the urgent care practitioner Dr. Samuel Bride.

Here is a quick overview of when you should visit an ER verses a urgent care clinic so you can be as prepared as possible next time you or a family member isn’t feeling well.

Visiting the ER

● The emergency room is meant for, well, emergencies. If you have a life-threatening injury or illness, you should call emergency number or head to the nearest ER immediately. The ER is equipped to handle everything from heart attacks to strokes and everything in between.

● The staff is also trained to deal with traumas such as car accidents and gunshot wounds. They have a higher level of technology available such as X-rays and MRI machines. The ER will also have access to your medical records if you are a patient at that particular hospital.

● Wait times can vary based on the severity of the cases they are currently dealing with but it is typically longer than an urgent care wait time would be.

Visiting Urgent Care

Urgent care clinics are for, well, less urgent items than the ER but more urgent than waiting for a regular doctor’s appointment which could take days or weeks.

● They can deal with things such as x-rays, lacerations that need stitches, moderate broken bones (think fingers and toes), respiratory problems, and more. Most centers are accredited by the Joint Commission which means they meet high standards for safety and quality.

● One of the main benefits of an urgent care clinic is that they typically have shorter wait times than an ER would because they aren’t handling life-threatening injuries or illnesses. You also don’t need an appointment so you can walk in whenever it is convenient for you within their business hours.

So, which one to choose and when?

If you think your problem is life-threatening, go to the ER. If you can wait a few days for a regular doctor’s appointment and it isn’t an emergency, go ahead and schedule that. But if you need to be seen sooner than a regular doctor’s appointment but it isn’t an emergency, then an urgent care clinic is probably your best bet.

When in doubt, always err on the side of caution and go to the ER. They would much rather see you and send you home than have you wait it out only to find out later that it was something serious. Better safe than sorry!

We hope this has helped clear up when you need to visit the urgent care medicine experts.


In short, if you have a life-threatening injury or illness, visit the ER immediately. If you have something that needs prompt attention but isn’t severe, visit an urgent care clinic in your area .Don’t forget that many pharmacies now also have minor injury and illness clinics attached so that might be another option depending on what exactly is wrong and where you live/work/etc.



Dr. Samuel Bride

As UMD Urgent Care medical director, Dr. Samuel Bride cares for patients and oversees five to ten staff members at Williamsburg and Long Island City facilities.