Should I Go To the Emergency Department?

UVMMC ED staff wheeling patient bed wearing full PPE.

When you’re not feeling well, sometimes it’s difficult to decide where you should go to seek care. From the Emergency Department, to Urgent Care, to calling your primary care physician – there are a lot of options. Here’s our advice.

The Emergency Department

Emergency departments are designed to treat the most critical medical needs 24/7. Wait times will depend on the severity of your illness or injury.

Below are some examples of situations where you should seek care at an emergency department.

  • Symptoms of heart attack or stroke
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Choking
  • Severe burns
  • Seizures
  • Neck, head or spine injuries
  • Compound fractures

If you think you have COVID-19 or are seeking COVID-19 testing, please contact your primary care provider or seek out testing by visiting our COVID-19 Testing Resource page.

Urgent Care & Primary Care

If you have a primary care provider, your first call should always be to them unless you are in a life-threatening or emergency situation. Nearly all primary care offices have a provider or nurse on call 24/7 to discuss your medical needs and help you determine where to seek care.

Urgent care clinics provide many of the same services that you can get in a primary care clinic, but may have additional services such as x-ray. Urgent care clinics are also a great option for patients who do not have a primary care provider.

Below are some examples of situations where you would want to seek care at an urgent care clinic or from your primary care provider.

  • COVID-19 testing
  • Small cuts that may need stitches
  • Flu or cold
  • Sore throat
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Minor fractures
  • Sprains
  • Abdominal pain
  • Sinus or ear infections
  • Rashes
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

We encourage you to take a moment to consider the best place to seek the care you need to ensure our emergency departments remain accessible to critical patients in need. Thank you!

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