Emergency Room, Urgent Care, or Pediatrician? Who to Visit & When

Imagine this scenario: You just picked the kids up from school and are climbing out of the car when you hear a scream. Your youngest has slammed her finger in the car door. What do you do and who do you call?

In this scenario, and any other unexpected accident, you can:

Visit the emergency roomTake her into an urgent care facilityCall your child’s pediatrician

Today, we’ll examine all 3 of these options. By the end of this article, you’ll have a better idea of what to do when your child is facing an unexpected health care need (and why visiting your pediatrician should almost always be your first choice).

When in doubt, call 911

If you think your child is experiencing a life-threatening emergency, call 911 immediately.

Emergency room, urgent care, & pediatricians: What’s the difference?

Emergency Room Emergency rooms provide fast, lifesaving care. However, not all urgent health issues meet the medical criteria for an emergency room visit.

Urgent Care Urgent care is a same-day clinic handling a variety of medical problems requiring treatment right away, but not considered true emergencies.

Pediatrician Office Your child’s primary care pediatrician knows your child’s medical history best and can provide a wide range of care — from urgent medical needs to routine checkups.

Where to take your child and when

You’ve already chosen a pediatrician over a family doctor, but there are a few things to take into consideration when choosing where to take your child in various health situations. Most important is the type of injury or illness and its severity. You may want to think about:

The resources available at the facilityWhether or not your insurance is acceptedMedical history knowledgeCustomer serviceConvenience

Most parents choose to visit their child’s primary care pediatrician office as it ranks high on all these factors (we’ll discuss this more later on). Still, there may come a time when you need to consider your other options.

When to take your child to the ER

If you feel like your child is facing an emergency, call 911 immediately. They will direct your next steps and send an ambulance if needed.

ChokingSevere difficulty breathingUnconsciousness, with or without severe head injuryInjury to neck or spineChild is not breathing or has turned blueSevere burnSeizure lasting more than 5 minutesUncontrollable bleeding

When to take your child to their pediatrician

Your pediatrician can be seen for all other healthcare needs — from minor things like routine checkups to emergent issues like broken bones.

Here at Oregon Pediatrics, if your child is facing an emergent health problem, we’ll get you in for an appointment right away. If your child needs help after hours, we’re available by phone 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to help you evaluate the situation and make the best care choice for your child. We encourage you to add our after-hours care number to your phone contacts.

Oregon Pediatrics After-Hours Care: (877) 989-8411

When to take your child to an urgent care center

If your child needs fast emergency care for a non life-threatening injury, you might be considering going to an urgent care center.

While an urgent care center can provide care for injuries or illnesses that need to be treated right away, it’s best to think of these facilities as your backup option for when you can’t immediately be seen by your primary care pediatrician.

The benefits of making your pediatrician the first call

Unless your child is suffering from a life-threatening emergency, we strongly encourage families to call their pediatrician’s office first. There are many reasons why this is beneficial.

Medical history knowledge

Second to you, your pediatrician office knows your child’s health and wellness history best. They know the medical and behavioral challenges your little one has faced, and are better prepared to confront the issues they are currently facing.

This unique understanding of your child’s medical history — including your particular parenting style when it comes to healthcare — is highly beneficial. Your pediatrician will be able to make faster, more knowledgeable decisions and recommendations. There’s simply no better substitute or getting care from a team who knows your child’s medical history.

Faster care

Keep in mind that ER and emergency facilities are designed to care for the sickest patients first. If you opt to take your child to the ER or urgent care for a non life-threatening or less severe issue, they’ll likely end up waiting longer than others in the facility.

Less stressful — for you and your child

When your child is already stressed and in pain from an illness or injury, you want to help them feel as comfortable as possible. Your pediatrician office knows how your child reacts to being in a doctor’s office and how to connect with them and help them feel calm.

A child’s injury or illness can be traumatic for you, too. A familiar place with familiar faces will help make the ordeal less stressful for everyone involved.

More predictable cost & insurance coverage

Sparing your child an unnecessary trip to the ER or urgent care center is not just a matter of convenience. Care at these facilities is generally more expensive than elsewhere. By visiting your pediatrician’s office, you’ll already know whether or not your insurance is accepted at the facility and also have a better idea of appointment costs.

Follow-up appointments will be easier

Depending on your child’s injury or sickness, follow up appointments may be necessary. Scheduling an appointment with your pediatrician will be much easier if they already know the history of the issue.

We’re here to help

At Oregon Pediatrics, we’re proud to provide the highest-quality comprehensive pediatric care to your family in every health situation.

We have 4 convenient locations to help your child receive the immediate care they need. And as a clinic networked with specialists and area hospitals, our medical staff is able to address any issues relating to your child’s health.

When your child is facing an immediate, non-life threatening problem, we’re here to provide the first response. Contact us today to learn more

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