What Should You Expect During an Urgent Care Visit?

Kacey Whitlock



For many people, urgent care is a prudent option for non-emergency medical needs. This might be for a number of reasons. Some patients are not covered by health insurance or have accrued too much medical debt because of frequent co-pays. Others prefer to go to urgent care clinics because they know that their medical condition is not an emergency and do not want to take time away from truly life-threatening situations, but they also know that their needs cannot wait for a scheduled doctor’s visit.

However, many people are not used to getting treatment outside a hospital and might not know what to expect during an urgent care visit. Urgent care is not exactly like a regular general practitioner, but it is also not exactly like the atmosphere of a hospital. This article will explain what you should expect during an urgent care visit, whatever reason you have for choosing that facility over another medical setting.

Average Urgent Care Wait Time

For most patients, going to any kind of medical facility means painfully long wait times. On average, you can expect to wait about 30-60 minutes at an emergency room. Even a regular doctor’s appointment scheduled in advance usually means a wait of roughly 20 minutes. While wait times in any medical setting are somewhat unpredictable, most patients report being seen by urgent care medical staff in less than 15 minutes and often within just a few minutes. Urgent care clinics tend to have less traffic than emergency rooms, and their extended hours mean that you are unlikely to be battling other patients to see a doctor at 10 PM. In general, it is unusual for urgent care patients to experience high wait times, so you should probably prepare to spend a few minutes filling out paperwork and another few minutes waiting to be seen.

Of course, the circumstances are unpredictable. If a patient comes in with a severe injury or needs to be transferred to an emergency room, they will see a doctor before you do, even if you arrived first.

Are Quality Doctors Available?

Because urgent care facilities deal with common serious medical issues rather than complicated or life-threatening ones, it is possible that you will see a nurse practitioner during your urgent care visit. Doctor availability may be sporadic, with doctors rotating in on certain days or even consulting with the clinic remotely. However, nurse practitioners are completely capable of assessing, diagnosing, and treating all the non-emergency medical conditions seen in an urgent care center and can even write prescriptions in certain states.

If an urgent care clinic does keep doctors on staff, it is possible that they will only be available for certain types of treatment or during limited hours. They also could only step in at the request of a nurse practitioner. It is also possible for an urgent care facility to keep a doctor on call and allow nurse practitioners to handle the daily operations of the clinic as long as the patient volume is not overly hectic. All these things largely depend on the laws in your state, the regulations of the urgent care facility in particular, and its staffing availability.

Nurse practitioners are highly trained, and there is no reason to think that they cannot provide you with complete quality medical care. Even if your state does not allow nurses to prescribe medications, the urgent care clinic can connect to a doctor who can fill the prescriptions you need.

However, it is also possible that you will see a doctor at an urgent care facility. There is no one set of regulations, and the staffing depends entirely on your local clinic’s needs and options. Urgent cares also often employ lab and X-ray technicians, and depending on your treatment, you may see one of these professionals, as well. Regardless who treats you, urgent care clinics make sure to staff quality doctors, nurses, and other personnel who are all capable of providing the treatment you need. If your needs eclipse the services the urgent care staff can provide, they will recommend you to a specialist or transfer you to a nearby emergency room, if necessary.

What Should I Expect During My Visit to Urgent Care?

In general, you can expect your urgent care visit to go much like any doctor’s appointment. Since urgent care facilities treat nonemergency medical conditions, patients are usually required to fill out a few forms beforehand to consent to treatment. If you have health insurance, you will need to provide proof and pay whatever co-pay is required; if you are not insured, you will need to speak to someone about a payment plan or other options.

You will also need to fill out a patient registration form with your contact information, insurance (if applicable), and the details of your medical condition. Urgent care facilities do not require patients to make appointments ahead of time, so all you need to do is go to the clinic and ask for treatment. Of course, it is important to make sure you have photo identification, so the staff can verify your details and put them into the computer system.

After you fill out your initial paperwork, you will most likely go to an exam room to speak with a nurse practitioner. They will ask you about the nature of your medical condition and make notes; if there is a doctor on staff, they will come in afterward to conduct an examination and prescribe any medication that is necessary. Urgent care staff will discharge you with instructions on how to care for yourself at home, take any prescribed medication, or follow up with specialty care.

What Treatments Are Provided?

Urgent care treatment options

Urgent care facilities fill a gap in the American healthcare system between general practitioners and emergency rooms. They offer treatment for conditions that are not immediately life-threatening but also cannot wait for a doctor’s visit during normal office hours. 

Examples of some of the conditions that urgent care clinics treat include allergic reactions, broken bones, influenza, and infections. The treated conditions vary somewhat between individual facilities. 

For example, some keep X-ray technicians on staff, while others do not. Although they vary in some details, all urgent care clinics are fully equipped with qualified medical staff to treat nonemergency medical conditions, conduct physical examinations, and provide routine care, such as giving stitches, administering vaccinations, and setting broken bones.

Most urgent care facilities also have labs to provide routine services, such as blood work, STD tests, and disease screening. Many patients also seek routine care at urgent care facilities for physical examinations, gynecological care, and pediatric visits, although these services are not necessarily offered at every facility.

It is possible that you will be given oral, topical, or IV medication at an urgent care facility. The doctors and nurses staffed there have the qualifications and medical knowledge to administer medications, but the policy varies between facilities. You may simply be prescribed medication if local policies do not allow medical staff to administer medication directly.

Urgent care medical personnel can also prescribe medication, although not necessarily every medication. Again, this varies from state to state and clinic to clinic. Some urgent care facilities are prohibited from prescribing narcotics and usually cannot order a refill on a prescription; refills must be handled through your primary care doctor. Although urgent care doctors and nurses can prescribe medication, they will probably only prescribe medication used to treat your condition in the short term, that is, an antibiotic or a short-term pain relief option. Anything else needs to be handled through your primary care physician.

Average Cost of Urgent Care

Emergency care treatments can quickly rise into the thousands, and medical debt is one of the leading causes of financial problems in the United States. For this reason, urgent care is frequently a better option, especially for patients who are uninsured. The average cost of treatment received at an urgent care ranged between $50 and $150, although costs vary depending on location and services rendered.

That being said, urgent care facilities are designed to give patients a variety of payment options, so even if you do not have health insurance, you will probably be offered different payment plans or discounts to ease your health-associated financial burdens. Insurance is not a prerequisite for urgent care patients, so providers will do what they can to get you your necessary medical care without putting you into severe debt.

Many urgent care clinics have a list of charges for the treatments they offer. This list is often available on their website, so you can check ahead of time to find out exactly how much you will pay.

Bonum Health: Remote Health Services

More frequently, urgent care clinics are employing the use of telecommunication services, so doctors can consult on cases remotely. Medical telecommunications services are increasingly a possibility in the modern world, with medical providers able to assess patients, discuss treatment options, refer to specialists, and prescribe medications over the phone or the internet.

Bonum Health offers you all these options. Their services work like a remote urgent care center without the need for a physical clinic visit. Using Bonum Health’s telecommunication services, patients can talk to qualified medical professionals and receive top-of-the-line medical care.

Instantly access doctors online

Consult board-certified doctors face-to-face online for as little as $99 per year

There is no need to provide proof of insurance; Bonum Health offers services to patients of any insured status for a single annual fee. Even patients who have insurance can rack up a lot of co-pay fees at in-person doctor visits. However, Bonum Health does not charge fees for each online appointment. Patients pay once a year for the full range of health services. Bonum Health’s medical professionals can give you all the care of a physical urgent care clinic, down to prescribing medication and having prescriptions filled at the pharmacy of your choice. Sign up for Bonum Health today to receive quality medical treatment from qualified professionals from the comfort of your home.

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