(Gillette, Wyo.) Do you know where to go if you have a serious medical need? Should you go to a clinic or the emergency department?
The answer depends on a variety of factors, most important of which is the nature of the medical emergency. If you have a sprained ankle during the day, the walk-in clinic is the best choice. If the patient is an infant with a fever or an adult over 35 with chest pains, the emergency department is the best choice. And in a life-threatening situation requiring immediate attention, you should call 911.
The emergency department is open 24/7, including holidays. The Campbell County Health Group Walk-In Clinic is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Campbell County Health says the general rule of thumb is you should go the emergency department when the medical need seems life threatening, like a heart attack or poisoning. Something that is not life-threatening but needs to be addressed today–and can’t wait until tomorrow–is something to take to the clinic. And neither option is a substitute for seeing a primary care physician.
“A primary care physician knows your entire health history and has followed your care for a period of time,” said Bill Stangl, vice president of physician services.
Stangl said primary care physicians can help patients with preventive care and keep chronic health issues like diabetes or high blood pressure from becoming more serious.
“Campbell County Medical Group has primary care providers in family medicine, pediatrics and internal medicine that are taking new patients,” he said.
In emergencies, there are a few benefits to making a good choice in whether to go to the clinic or emergency department. Stangl said patients can always choose where they go for care. However, the Campbell County Memorial Hospital Emergency Department has specific equipment and resources to address emergencies. So, it generally costs more.
Going to the emergency department with an uncomplicated issue, Stangl said, may mean waiting longer to receive care because nurses triage patients. People with more serious matters are seen first.
“This also increases the wait for all the other patients in the ED,” Stangl added.
When to visit the emergency department:
- Difficulty breathing
- Convulsions, seizures
- Loss of consciousness
- Deep wounds, heavy bleeding
- Serious head, neck or back injury
- Severe abdominal pain
- Alarming pregnancy problems
- Talk of suicide or homicide
- Moderate to severe burns
- Coughing or vomiting blood
When to visit the walk-in clinic:
- Mild asthma attacks and breathing difficulty
- Wounds with moderate bleeding
- Fever, flu, upper respiratory tract infection
- X-rays and lab tests
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Skin rashes and infections
- Mild eye irritation
- Urinary tract infection
- Abdominal pain
- STD testing
- Back pain
- Dental infection
- Mild burns
- Work injuries
For more guidance, see the Campbell County Health site here.