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Sep 2022

Convenient care or emergency department – which should you choose?

In a world where there’s not enough time in the day to be sick, we find ourselves wanting flexibility and more options for care when illness or injury strikes. But the choices can be confusing — what is the difference between convenient care and the hospital’s emergency room? Where do you go for an earache, a sprain or something more serious, such as trouble breathing? While convenient care and the ER aren’t meant to replace visits to your doctor, they are there when you need to see someone during off hours, weekends or more quickly than going to your physician.

BJC HealthCare recommends contacting your provider first when health concerns arise, unless it is a medical emergency. BJC convenient care clinics are walk-in centers that are great alternatives when you aren’t able to see your regular provider or after regular hours. Services vary by location, but these clinics often offer lab tests for basic bloodwork and advanced diagnostics, including X-rays. The wait is typically short, and the cost is less than going to an emergency room.

What is the difference between a convenient care clinic and the emergency room?

Convenient care clinics are used to treat minor injuries or illnesses. These clinics are typically staffed with a nurse practitioner or physician assistant. They are less expensive than a visit to an emergency room. BJC Medical Group has several convenient care locations in Missouri and Illinois that offer extended hours and accept walk-ins. While no appointments are necessary, you can save your spot at a BJC convenient care location online. Go to bjc.org/convenientcare to find a location near you or to reserve a time for your visit.

Use the convenient care for:

  • COVID-19 symptoms/testing/rapid testing (varies by location)/treatment
  • Allergies
  • Insect bites
  • Coughs, colds, flu and fever
  • Earaches
  • Urinary problems
  • Sore throats and strep or mono
  • Eye irritation
  • Mild skin conditions and rashes

Emergency rooms (ERs) are for more serious injuries or illness and are open around-the-clock. Even with a less severe injury or illness, the wait can be longer than at a convenient care clinic and the cost higher. Check in for estimated treatment times at select hospital emergency rooms by visiting bjc.org/er. Of course, if the condition is life-threatening, such as a heart attack, stroke or if someone is unresponsive, call 911 immediately.

Use the ER for:

  • Severe COVID-19 symptoms
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Severe pain
  • Serious injury
  • Sudden vision impairment
  • Broken bones visible through the skin
  • Severe burns
  • Fainting
  • Poisoning
  • Rapid heartbeat