Primary Care vs. Urgent Care vs. The ER

By: Courtney Lewis

February 02, 2023

Sarah Herbert, APRN pictured wearing mask and checking masked male patient's vitals with a stethoscope

When seeking medical care, there are several different provider types and options from which to choose. For example, you may have asked yourself a common question: Should I go to my primary care provider, urgent care or the emergency room? Sarah Herbert, APRN with Renown Medical Group – South Carson, provides guidelines to help you easily make this decision.

When should you go to the Emergency Room (ER)? 

Making a visit to the ER should be reserved for severe symptoms and/or life-threatening conditions, including: 
  • Chest pain
  • Severe shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Weakness or numbness on one side
  • Slurred speech
  • Fainting/loss of consciousness
  • Continuous bleeding or major open wounds
  • Severe allergic reactions 
  • Coughing or throwing up blood
  • Drug or alcohol overdose
  • Sharp pain in lower abdomen
  • Severe dehydration and not responding to nausea medication (needing IV fluids)
  • High fever that does not get better with medicine
  • Serious burns
  • Broken bones/dislocated joints
  • Head trauma

Find an Emergency Department Near You

If you’re still unsure of where to go for appropriate medical care, it’s best to check with your primary care physician. And remember, for a life-threatening emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately!

A 24/7 ER in South Reno

South Meadows Exterior Photo

A 24/7 ER in South Reno

The ER at Renown South Meadows offers convenient access to care for those experiencing chest pain, injuries or severe illness. The ER is staffed 24/7 by board certified emergency physicians and accepts most insurance types.

When should you go to your Primary Care Provider? 

It’s best to schedule an appointment with your primary care provider if you need to be seen for regular check-ups, wellness visits, vaccinations, or for any of the symptoms or conditions listed below. 

  • Cold, cough, or flu
  • Ear infection
  • Minor allergic reactions or allergies
  • Minor burns, cuts or bites. 
  • Migraine 
  • Rash, skin condition or pink eye
  • Urinary Tract Infection
  • Nausea or diarrhea 
  • Sleep issues/fatigue

If a primary care provider thinks you need to see a specialist, they will provide you with a referral. 

Find a Primary Care Provider Near You

When should you go to the Urgent Care? 

Urgent care is an excellent option if your primary care provider is unavailable with more flexible hours, including availability in the evenings, on weekends and holidays. In addition, there are ten Renown urgent care locations across Reno, Sparks and surrounding areas with virtual visit options.

Dr. Sabine Braithwaite, Physician at Renown Emergency Medicine, Urgent Care shares this helpful information:

What symptoms does Renown Urgent Care manage?

  • Superficial lacerations and animal bites
  • Sprains and closed fractures
  • Sports physicals
  • Workman’s compensation injuries
  • Urinary infections
  • Sore throat
  • Pinkeye
  • Mild difficulty breathing
  • Coughing without severe shortness of breath

What testing is available at Urgent Care?

  • Urgent care offers many rapid testing options, including RSV, COVID-19, influenza, mononucleosis, urninary issues and strep throat.
  • Some urgent care locations can perform x-rays and blood draws

Remember, before you visit the urgent care, you can call your primary care provider’s office to see if they have same-day appointments.

Find an Urgent Care Location Near You

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