Urgent care or the Emergency department: Where to go when you need immediate medical care


The increase in urgent care centers that have opened recently in the region has resulted in more people receiving the proper medical care they need, when they need it. However, it has also created some confusion about when people should visit an urgent care center or the nearest emergency room. With the opening of Emerson Hospital’s first urgent care center in Hudson and second urgent care in littleton, Dr. Joseph Palomba, medical director of Emerson Urgent Care at Hudson, provides some important insight.

What is urgent care?

Urgent care is appropriate for a condition that requires prompt attention, but does not pose an immediate or serious health threat. Some people think of it correctly as a walk-in doctor’s office with convenient hours and no appointment necessary. Often there are short wait times. Many urgent care centers, including Emerson’s, offer patients the ability to reserve a spot online and receive reminders by text for added convenience.

Ear infections, possible strep throat, and sprained ankles are just three common examples among hundreds of conditions that urgent care staff can diagnose and treat. Emerson’s urgent care center treats children and adults and is designed to treat your minor illness or injury needs.

Who will take care of my medical needs in urgent care?
Not all urgent care centers are staffed by physicians. Emerson’s urgent care center is staffed by board-certified physicians, certified radiology technicians, and other medical professionals who are on staff at Emerson Hospital. They are specially trained in acute care medicine for all age groups and are dedicated to providing you with prompt attention, information, and a timely diagnosis. Most urgent care patients are treated and on their way home in about an hour. The clinicians send your primary care physician a report for any follow-up treatment needed.

What is urgent care not?

Urgent Care is not an emergency room. Emergency departments are at hospitals and are open 24 hours a day. They accept ambulances and treat patients with life-threatening conditions, severely broken bones, or major illnesses that may require surgery or hospitalization.

When should I go to the emergency department instead of urgent care?

If you are experiencing severe chest pain, severe abdominal pain, have sustained multiple injuries, or are unsure if your condition is serious, life threatening, or feel it may be worsening, then go directly to the nearest hospital or call 911 to be seen in the emergency department. Health issues that are not usually cared for at an urgent care center that will likely result in transport to the ED include:

  • Bleeding profusely
  • Difficulty walking or standing
  • Slurring of speech, one-sided weakness
  • Trouble staying awake
  • Shortness of breath, can’t talk in complete sentences
  • Severe chest pain or abdominal pain
  • Any severe pain or severe injuries

When should I go to urgent care instead of the emergency department?

Urgent care is a convenient alternative when your doctor's office is closed or if you do not have a physician. It is often the preferred setting for sudden illnesses that require immediate attention but are not life threatening, such as a rash, cough, cut or minor injury. Other types of medical issues that can often be treated at urgent care centers include:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Animal bites and scratches
  • Bites (such as ticks) and stings
  • Bronchitis and pneumonia
  • Colds and coughs
  • Dehydration
  • Earaches
  • Flu viruses
  • Fractures and broken bones
  • Headache
  • Lacerations and cuts (suture/stitches are often able to be performed in urgent care)
  • Neck and back pain
  • Poison ivy, skin rashes
  • Sprains and strains
  • Strep and sore throats
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Wounds

How does insurance work with urgent care?

Emerson Urgent Care accepts most health insurance plans. However, insurance coverage can vary depending on your plan. Please check with your insurance provider about coverage and any out of pocket expenses.

Emerson Urgent Care Centers can be found in Hudson and Littleton.

In Hudson, Emerson Urgent Care is located at 38 Highland Commons East in the Shops at Highland Commons on the Hudson/Berlin line. Call 978-287-8990 and hours of operation are: weekdays 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.; weekend/holidays 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

In Littleton, Emerson Urgent Care is located in The Point shopping plaza at 830 Constituitaon Ave in Littleton. Call 978-287-8990 and hours of operation are: weekdays 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.; weekend/holidays 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Reserve your spot in line, or find more information about Emerson Urget Care locations by vsiting www.EmersonUrgentCare.org.