Urgent or Emergency?

How to know when you should go to the hospital

A nurse with a tablet comforts a woman in the waiting room


If you are not feeling well, are experiencing symptoms that are concerning, or have an injury, sometimes it’s hard to know which level of medical care is most appropriate. How do you know if you should call your doctor’s office, go to urgent care, head to an emergency room, or even call an ambulance?

“Anyone who thinks they’re having a medical emergency such as chest pain, stroke  symptoms or severe bleeding should not hesitate to call 911,” said Jeffrey Zurosky, MD, medical director of Parkwest Medical Center’s emergency department. “Emergency departments
are prepared to care for every kind of
medical emergency. Urgent care centers
are also an option for minor emergencies
or non-life- threatening conditions.”

Should I go to the hospital?

Symptoms that are persistent and sudden may require a call to 911 and a trip to the ER.  Examples are chest pain that won’t go away or changes in vision that begin without  warning. Other conditions that often need emergency treatment include:

  • Stroke symptoms (sudden intense headache, loss of balance, facial drooping, inability to move arms or legs, blurred vision, slurred speech
  • Heart attack symptoms (including, but not limited to chest pain, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea and pain in arm, neck or jaw)
  • Extreme stomach pain
  • Trouble breathing (including shortness of breath)
  • High fevers
  • Allergic reactions
  • Very high or very low blood pressure
  • Eye or head injuries (or major changes in vision)
  • Serious burns
  • Possible drug overdose or poisoning
  • Bleeding that will not stop
  • Bone fracture
  • Seizure
  • Altered mental state
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coughing up or vomiting blood
  • Blood in urine or stool
  • Snake bites
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Serious headaches

If you are already under special care for a condition like diabetes or an illness like cancer, it’s best to contact your physician before deciding to go to the emergency room. Your physician may want to see you personally, and will definitely want to connect with the emergency room staff if a hospital visit is necessary.

While the goal of an emergency department is to treat all patients as quickly as possible,  priority is given to patients with life-threatening injuries or illnesses. Patients who are assessed and determined to have non-life-threatening conditions may experience a longer wait time. While you are waiting, be aware that in addition to walk-in patients, ambulances are also bringing in patients who are often experiencing life-or-death emergencies.

In recent years, urgent care and walk-in clinics have become more available, and Covenant Health offers walk-in  services at several physician offices. These clinics are helpful resources for providing  prompt care to patients with non-life- threatening conditions.

Dr. Zurosky explained, “Many urgent care centers have resources for diagnostic testing, including lab and radiology studies, and laceration repair. The medical providers at urgent  care centers will not hesitate to advise you if you need a higher level of care than they can provide.”

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms or conditions below, consider visiting an urgent care or receiving  virtual urgent care via telehealth:

  • Sprains and strains
  • Lower back pain
  • Cold, flu or sinus infection symptoms including sore throat, cough and ear pain
  • Allergies
  • Most animal or insect bites
  • Pink eye
  • Rash
  • Tooth pain
  • Minor burn
  • Simple cut needing stitches
  • Sports physicals and most sports injuries
  • Upset stomach (vomiting and diarrhea)
  • Pregnancy test
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Nosebleed

If you’re worried about your current symptoms or condition and feel unsafe in your home, it’s always OK to come to the emergency room. Parkwest’s highly trained staff will provide you with  excellent care.
To learn more about emergency care services and the other services available at Parkwest Medical Center, visit TreatedWell.com.

Virtual Visits for Urgent Care

woman facetiming on phone to male doctor

Covenant Health Virtual Urgent Care is a fast and convenient way for an individual to see a clinician by video call when it is not feasible to schedule an in-person visit for urgent (non-emergency) medical
needs. With Covenant Health Virtual Urgent Care, appointments and insurance are not required. Services are available 24/7, anywhere in East Tennessee. Trust us for your family’s non-emergency care needs on weekends, holidays, after hours, or whenever you can fit care into your busy schedule.

Covenant Health Virtual Urgent Care Team

Our emergency medicine-trained clinicians focus solely on providing Virtual Urgent Care through a secure video call. Providers are available now with ex- pert advice, diagnosis and treatment for non-emergency health care needs.

Cost Per Visit

Insurance is not required with Covenant Health Virtual Urgent Care. A video call with an emergency medicine-trained provider is a flat rate of $65, payable by credit card, debit card or Health Savings Account card.

What We Treat

Covenant Health Virtual Urgent Care provides diagnosis and treatment for many everyday non- emergency health needs, including:

  • Allergies and sinuses
  • Coughs, colds and flu
  • Rashes, insect bites and minor burns
  • Upset stomach and nausea
  • Prescription refills
  • And many more

Visit CovenantHealth.com/virtual-urgent-care to learn more about this service.

How It Works

Covenant Health Virtual Urgent Care is easy to use. All you need to get started is an internet-connected device such as a smartphone, tablet or computer. Follow these simple steps, and you’ll be
minutes away from high-quality care.
1. Type https://visit.virtualcarecovenanthealth.com/guest_visits/start into your browser.
2. Tell us about your symptoms.
3. Meet with a provider by video call.
4. Receive your personalized diagnosis and treatment plan.
5. Send prescriptions to your preferred pharmacy as needed.

When to go to the Emergency Room vs. Urgent Care

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