Do you Know Where to go for Medical Care?

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Do you know where to go for medical care? Things that need medical attention often catch people off guard, especially when they’re generally healthy.

As soon as someone realizes they need medical care, they’re faced with several options. Is there a difference between immediate care and a walk-in clinic? Should they go to the emergency room?

It’s important to know the difference ahead of time, as choosing the correct level of care can not only save money, it could save someone’s life.

Let’s take a few scenarios and triage (assign) them through three levels of care: Walk-In ClinicsImmediate Care Centers and Emergency Departments.

Kid wakes up with a nasty cough.

A child says they don’t feel good. The parent feels their child’s forehead and a quick check with a thermometer confirms a high temperature. Besides that, he’s coughing and says he has a headache.

The parent calls off school. There are only three hours until a big work meeting, so the parent needs to get her child checked out now.

First, tackle the COVID-19 question. Call the child’s doctor about next steps if they have symptoms of coronavirus and/or if they’ve been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19.

Whether the child needs a COVID-19 test or medical help due to another virus and the primary care physician is booked solid, the best place to go is a Walk-In Clinic, which is staffed with board-certified nurse practitioners and physician assistants who can provide quick care for things like cold and flu symptoms, coughs and sore throats.

Spouse slices a hand while trimming bushes in the yard.

If the cut is deep enough that it needs to be held closed, it will need medical attention. 

First, check for an Immediate Care Center nearby. Wait times are available on, so people can head to one that has the shortest wait. Immediate Care Centers have board-certified physicians on site, as well as physician assistants and advanced practice nurses, and are equipped to handle cuts that need stitches.

An Immediate Care Center would provide appropriate treatment and would likely save money over seeking care in the emergency room.

Someone falls down the basement stairs and hits their head on concrete.

Once they recover from the initial shock of the fall, they might feel dizzy. Their head is throbbing, and they’re feeling an overwhelming wave of nausea.

In this scenario, they need two things: someone to drive them and an emergency room.

A severe head injury or concussion is serious enough to warrant a trip to the ER. Edward-Elmhurst Health emergency rooms are staffed around the clock with board-certified physicians and nurses.

If someone experiences life-threatening symptoms, don’t second-guess it. Head to an emergency department immediately. Life-threatening symptoms can include:

  • Chest pain, difficulty breathing
  • Head injuries, abdominal pain
  • Unusual headache, numbness/weakness/ clumsiness, loss of vision
  • Uncontrolled or heavy bleeding or bone fracture/dislocation

Treatment at a Walk-In Clinic, Immediate Care Center or Emergency Department shouldn’t be a substitute for a regular physical with a primary care physician. Getting regular check-ups help people stay healthy for the long haul (even with the occasional bump in the road). 

630 Naperville Guest

Adam Johnson, MSN, RN, is System Director of Immediate Care and Walk-In Clinics for Edward-Elmhurst Health.

About Edward-Elmhurst Health

Edward Hospital and Linden Oaks Behavioral Health are part of NorthShore – Edward-Elmhurst Health, a fully integrated healthcare delivery system committed to providing access to quality, vibrant, community-connected care, serving an area of more than 4.2 million residents across six northeast Illinois counties. Our more than 25,000 team members and more than 6,000 physicians aim to deliver transformative patient experiences and expert care close to home across more than 300 ambulatory locations and eight acute care hospitals – Edward (Naperville), Elmhurst, Evanston, Glenbrook (Glenview), Highland Park, Northwest Community (Arlington Heights) Skokie and Swedish (Chicago) – all recognized as Magnet hospitals for nursing excellence. Located in Naperville, Linden Oaks Behavioral Health provides for the mental health needs of area residents. For more information, visit and

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