Urgent care specialists are trained to provide care for patients who are not sick enough to visit the emergency room, yet still require the attention of a professional, usually offering round-the-clock care at a clinic.

Watch an Overview of Urgent Care

About Urgent Care

Urgent care is a field of medicine that provides ambulatory care in a setting other than the emergency room of a hospital. By providing ambulatory care, urgent care specialists are capable of treating patients suffering from minor injuries and illnesses on an outpatient basis. Generally, patients who visit urgent care centers are seen on a walk-in, first-come-first-served basis.

Urgent care centers typically do not provide emergency care for patients suffering from life-threatening conditions. Rather, these centers provide care for minor illnesses and injuries that are usually treated by a primary care physician. Urgent care centers provide patients with a place to seek care when they are unable to see their primary doctor. Urgent care centers are usually open after normal business hours, often providing care 24 hours a day.


Urgent care centers are rising in popularity due to their noteworthy convenience and relatively cheap provision of care. Instead of visiting a hospital emergency room, which can be very expensive, patients requiring medical care for non-life-threatening injuries may receive treatment at a relatively lower cost via urgent care centers. Physicians working in urgent care provide care similar to that of a general or family practitioner, treating illnesses and minor injuries such as allergies, the common cold, and other minor medical problems. Urgent care physicians are also capable of providing preventive care, including vaccinations, diagnostic tests, flu shots and sexually transmitted disease tests, among other services.


Urgent Care Education & Training

Physicians working in urgent care have usually been trained in family medicine or internal medicine, but may be trained in other specialty areas. As a family practitioner, the physician must have completed a four year undergraduate degree before a four year MD or DO medical degree. Following graduation from medical school, they physician will have had to complete a three year residency program in family practice. After completing the residency, the physician must earn a license to practice medicine in the state of their choosing.

If the urgent care physician is trained as an internist (internal medicine), they will have had to complete the same educational path as a family practitioner, but with a different residency program. Internists have completed a three year residency program in internal medicine, where they have received extensive training in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases present in adults. Because urgent care is a very broad field of medicine, the education of physicians practicing urgent care will vary from one physician to the next. Doctors practicing within urgent care may be general practitioners, internists, pediatricians, allergist/immunologists, and so on. Urgent care physicians typically seek board certification in the area of their primary specialty, or the area in which they completed their residency training. Each urgent care physician must be licensed to practice medicine from the state(s) in which they provide care.