Difference Between Emergency, Trauma and Urgent Care

There is a substantial difference between the care a patient receives at Emergency Departments (frequently called the "Emergency Room") and Trauma Centers. Most hospitals have an Emergency Department; this is where patients come with emergency illnesses and injuries, some of which may be life-threatening. Examples might include sudden severe stomach pains, shortness of breath, or severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea.

A Trauma Center can handle all of the same types of illnesses and injuries that are seen in an Emergency Department, plus provide multi-disciplinary, comprehensive emergency medical services to patients who have traumatic injuries. Examples of traumatic injuries include those sustained in automobile accidents, gunshot wounds, or the Metrolink train collision in Chatsworth. To give these patients the best hopes for survival, these types of injuries frequently require a highly specialized medical team that includes trauma surgeons, other medical specialties, highly trained staff, and the latest in sophisticated medical equipment.

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) sets national criteria for hospitals to qualify as a trauma center. Trauma centers are identified by "levels", which correspond to the types of trauma services they provide. Level I is the highest. Valley residents can feel secure in knowing that, if they do have a medical emergency, Providence Holy Cross Medical Center has the expertise to qualify as a Level II trauma center.

When it's not an Emergency: Urgent Care 

Many patients who don't have a primary care physician use the Emergency or Trauma Department as a last resort for their medical care. Using the Emergency Department when it's not appropriate causes problems on all fronts. It's not good for the patient, who may need to wait long hours for care while real emergencies are being handled. Emergency Departments are not set up for non-emergency patients to receive necessary follow-up care. It's not good for the hospital or medical staff, either. Emergency care is the most expensive care provided within the medical system, and non-emergency patients can clog the system and strain emergency resources.

Many patients who don't have a primary care physician use the Emergency or Trauma Department as a last resort for their medical care. Using the Emergency Department when it's not appropriate causes problems on all fronts. It's not good for the patient, who may need to wait long hours for care while real emergencies are being handled. Emergency Departments are not set up for non-emergency patients to receive necessary follow-up care. It's not good for the hospital or medical staff, either. Emergency care is the most expensive care provided within the medical system, and non-emergency patients can clog the system and strain emergency resources.

If you have a medical condition or illnesses that you're concerned about, but it is not a life threatening condition, an Urgent Care Center is the right place for you to go. Patients at Urgent Care Centers are typically seen faster, as each patient does not take as much time as most do in a Trauma Center or Emergency department. The cost is less expensive than an Emergency Department as well. If the medical professionals at the Urgent Care think that you need an Emergency Department, they will help get you there in a timely manner. Check with your family physician or health plan to find one in your area.

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