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Published on January 09, 2019

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Urgent vs. Emergent: Where should you seek care?

When you're ill or injured, you need the right level of care, and that means knowing whether you have an urgent or emergent need.

Patients facing an illness or injury that could threaten their life or result in permanent disability should seek emergency care, says Dawn Waldera, RN, director of Inpatient Services at Gundersen Tri-County.

Symptoms that demand a visit to the emergency room include chest pain, shortness of breath, sudden onset or severe headaches, or broken bones, says Robert Zink, MD, medical director for Gundersen Tri-County Emergency Services. He also recommends expectant mothers who experience bleeding or severe cramping be evaluated emergently.

Urgent Care is best for patients with conditions that aren't emergent, but those that cannot wait for a clinic appointment. That includes sprains, strains, cuts, upper respiratory infections, urinary infections and severe sore throats. Children who suffer from a fever or ear pain also should be seen at urgent care, Dr. Zink says.

Gundersen Tri-County recently added emergency medical technicians to the Emergency Services and Urgent Care departments to reduce wait times for patients who are seen based on the severity of their condition.

"Registered nurses, providers and the rest of the healthcare team are partnering to deliver care more efficiently by using additional spaces when necessary and by utilizing new approaches to get care started sooner," Dawn says. "Our goal is always to see patients as quickly and efficiently as we can."

We also are working to increase patient comfort by interacting with those waiting for care and by having registered nurses provide specific interventions for patients before they are seen by a medical provider.

"We are hopeful that the measures that we've already taken and are now starting to implement will decrease wait times and increase patient comfort," Dawn says. "We're anxious to receive feedback from our patients to see if we have achieved our goals."

Urgent Care is open 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends and holidays.

Emergency care is open 24/7.

Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System staff deliver great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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