Health & Safety

May 9, 2014

Emergency Care versus Urgent Care

In the event of a medical crisis, sometimes it’s hard to determine if you should go to the emergency department or an urgent care center.

You can help make emergency care as efficient and effective as possible by knowing how to distinguish an emergency from urgent and routine health concerns.

Is it an Emergency? The initial minutes after an injury or a medical crisis are often the most critical. Trust your instincts when deciding if you or your loved ones need immediate medical attention. Symptoms that generally indicate an emergency include but are not limited to:

  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Head injury or broken bones
  • Poisoning or suspected overdose
  • Inability to breath or shortness of breath
  • Seizure or loss of consciousness
  • Persistent chest or abdominal pain or pressure
  • Numbness or paralysis of an arm or leg
  • Sudden slurred speech, visual changes or weakness
  • Major burns
  • Intense pain
  • Severe reaction to an insect bite, medication or food.
  • Active thoughts of harming oneself
  • Victims of crime (sexual assault, domestic violence, etc.)

Call for Help: Calling for an ambulance is one of the most important steps you can take in an emergency situation. Paramedics can begin treatment on the way to the hospital and alert special response teams to get equipment and rooms ready for when you arrive. This is especially important for someone suffering a heart attack.

If on-base, dial 911 from a land-based phone or (661) 277-4541 from a cell phone.

If off-base, dial 911.

Remember–don’t attempt to move the victim or perform a medical procedure if you are unsure how to do it. If you or the victim requires immediate care, call for an ambulance.

The Urgent Care Option: The emergency rooms run on an unpredictable schedule, and patients with the most severe symptoms are seen first. If you have a situation that requires prompt medical attention but is not life-threatening, you may receive faster care if you visit an urgent care clinic or schedule an ACUTE appointment (same day) with your provider. Unlike emergencies, you need an authorization from either the clinic or the Nurse Advice Line before you seek care.

Access to Care: During business hours, you can call the 412th Medical Group appointment line at (661) 277-7118. During non-duty hours, you can stay on the line. It will automatically transfer you to the Nurse Advice Line which will provide you self-care options, an acute appointment with your primary care manager, or an authorization to go to urgent care. The Nurse Advice Line can be accessed directly at 1-800-TRICARE (1-800-874-2273)

Urgent care symptoms may include but is not limited to:

  • Moderate fever
  • Colds, cough or flu
  • Bruises, abrasions and minor cuts
  • Minor burns
  • Eye, ear or skin infections
  • Sprains or strains
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Respiratory infections

If you are uncertain, your health care team or the Nurse Advice Line can advise you about symptoms that may require emergency, urgent or routine care.




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