Rockwall residents and those in surrounding areas always seem to be on the go - rushing from one activity to another.  It can be fun but at any time your day can turn chaotic at a moment’s notice.  And sometimes that chaos turns into a critical need for medical attention.  Knowing that, plan ahead and be prepared for action. 

The first decision you will probably make is whether the situation is urgent or emergent.  It makes a difference - because there is a distinction between Urgent Care and an Emergency Room.

An Urgent Care is best described as a clinic providing diagnosis of conditions that may need to be treated quickly but are not life threatening.  These may include sinus problems, insect bites/stings, rashes, sprains and similar conditions.  Urgent cares provide services on a walk-in basis and usually with extended hours.  They may or may not have more advanced services than your primary care physician.

By contrast, an Emergency Room provides care for severe and life threatening conditions such as stroke, chest pain, severe bleeding, difficulty breathing and similar afflictions.  An ER, as an extension of a hospital, is open 24/7 and has specially trained medical staff with the ability to recognize and treat life threatening conditions.  Emergency rooms provide radiology services and more advanced onsite imaging, such as CT, as well as complete laboratory testing.  As a result, the combined medical staff at an ER can best determine whether the symptoms you are experiencing are the result of a heart attack or indigestion and can provide the most appropriate immediate care.

While the lists above aren’t all inclusive it should give you an idea of the typical conditions treated at each facility.  Understanding that, you may ask “how do I know the difference from the outside of the building?”  Simply the name (or subtitle, or disclaimer) should identify the level of care.  An urgent care facility often includes those words in the facility name or it may have the identifier of a clinic.  An ER clearly states “emergency” or ER and is associated with a hospital.

However, an ER may be located away from the main hospital campus.  This is becoming an increasingly popular tool to bring healthcare closer to where people live.  For example in Rockwall, Texas Health Rockwall has an ER at the main campus near Ralph Hall Parkway and another in North Rockwall (2265 North Lakeshore Drive) off SH 205.  Both provide the full range of emergency services and treat the same conditions.

Wherever you are, you should be aware of the location of your nearest emergency room.  Whenever you or someone you love has a medical need, you should have an expectation of the level of care that is provided at an emergency room or an urgent care clinic.  But the most important message is that whenever you are in doubt call 911 or, if safe to do so, proceed to the closest emergency room.  You never know when the need may arise.  Take a moment right now and think about it because being armed with the knowledge of where to go can save valuable minutes.