When Should I go to the Emergency Department?


Sometimes it’s hard to know whether you should go to the Emergency Department or your Primary Care Provider. Many trips to the Emergency Department end up being unnecessary and could easily have been handled by a primary care provider. Knowing the difference between primary care and emergency care will help you know where to go when the unexpected happens.

There are also huge differences in medical charges for primary care and emergency care. A trip to the Emergency Department is going to be a lot more expensive than a trip to your primary care provider. One reason is in the name – “emergency.” Emergency care requires a fully staffed department with topline medical equipment to treat true emergencies like stroke and trauma patients. The very nature of emergency care means a higher bill will reach your mailbox.

Primary care providers, like the Rural Health Clinic, should be your first contact in getting health care for you and your family. Your PCP knows your history and can typically coordinate your in-depth health care services with specialists if or when you need one. PCPs often leave time in their schedule for sick visits and may be able to see you the same day for minor illnesses or injuries. In addition to routine physical exams, vaccinations, and health screenings, go to your primary care provider for:

  • Allergic reaction
  • Colds, cough, fever, flu
  • Cuts with contained bleeding
  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness
  • Ear infection
  • Minor burns
  • Minor cuts/lacerations
  • Nausea
  • Rash
  • Sore throat
  • Sprain or strain
  • Urinary tract infection

Emergency care is for serious medical conditions that threaten a person’s life or limb. Urgent care is not emergency care – Know the difference. In case of an emergency, or if you are unsure if you can drive to the nearest emergency room, you should call 9-1-1. Examples of conditions to go to the Emergency Department for include:

  • Bone breaks
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fainting/unconsciousness
  • Ingestion of objects or poisons
  • Major/significant trauma or injury
  • Seizures
  • Severe burns
  • Severe chest pain/heart palpitations
  • Snake or animal bites
  • Uncontrollable bleeding/vomiting blood

A trip to PMH’s Emergency Department will reveal a professional, caring staff whose goal is to get you treated and on your way again as soon as possible. The Emergency Department is fully staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and was designated a Level IV Trauma Center in 2014.