Urgent care practitioners are primary care or emergency medicine trained—enabling them to identify chronic or more serious conditions during a more routine visit. While these backgrounds provide an excellent foundation for a career in urgent care, many physicians opt to complete specially-designed training programs to prepare for this unique facet of ambulatory care.
UCAOA sponsors four Urgent Care Fellowship Programs—more information may be found here.
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While somewhat akin to primary care, ED, and occupational medicine, urgent care is truly its own animal. Common conditions treated in a center run the gamut from sprains and strains, upper respiratory infections, and fevers, to lacerations, contusions, and back pain.
Patients are a pretty even split between female (55%) and male (45%), and most fall between the ages of 36-59 (37%) and 23-35 (25%). According to the 2012 Benchmarking Study, urgent care centers saw an average of 342 patient visits per week.
Urgent care centers typically operate 7 days a week (including holidays) and are open between 8 and 9am, and close between 7 and 9pm on the weekdays. Hours are usually somewhat earlier on the weekends.
To learn more about core competencies of urgent care physicians, check out the Core Content in Urgent Care Medicine continuing education program.
Patients today have several health care options available to them. Urgent care often bridges the gap between those choices.
To that end, UCAOA recommends that all individuals have a primary care physician, and supports the AAFP's concept of a "medical home." Many centers do not provide ongoing primary care, and refer patients to a local physician group.
Urgent care centers are NOT freestanding emergency departments. Centers are not equipped to treat major emergencies, nor provide assistance for labor and delivery. If a patient has a life or limb-threatening illness or injury, the center will route them back to the ED immediately.
Conversely, emergency departments often refer patients with non-emergent conditions to their local urgent care center.
Patients that require follow up with a specialist typically receive a referral from the center.