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Essential health information from local experts

Urgent Care Center or Emergency Room?

Urgent Care Center or Emergency Room?

Knowing the difference can make all the difference.

If you've suffered an accident or sustained an injury, it's important to know that you can find medical help nearby. And with Sarasota Memorial's seven Urgent Care Centers and three Emergency Rooms spread throughout the county, that will always be the case. But it's important to know the difference between an Urgent Care Center and an Emergency Room because they're not quite the same thing.

An Urgent Care Center is an extremely versatile facility that can provide immediate treatment for a wide range of urgent but not life-threatening illnesses or injuries, as well as all sorts of basic healthcare services. Urgent Care Centers can even conduct on-site x-rays, perform lab tests and provide immunizations.

But they do not have the life-saving equipment that is available in emergency rooms or a trauma center like Sarasota Memorial Hospital-Sarasota, nor can they provide emergency surgery.

If you are experiencing signs of a stroke, heart attack or other life-threatening condition, call 9-1-1 or go straight to the ER. If you're experiencing chest pain, impaired consciousness, bleeding that won't stop or difficulty breathing, call 9-1-1 and get to the hospital ER quickly.

For most other common medical needs, consult the list below.


Go to Urgent Care for non-life-threatening illnesses or injuries, such as:

Rule of Thumb

Is your condition or injury life-threatening or potentially life-threatening? Get to the ER immediately. Call 9-1-1.

Is your condition something that you would typically schedule an appointment with your primary care physician for, but simply can’t wait? Go to an Urgent Care Center.

Now you can save your spot in line, online, with Sarasota Memorial Urgent Care’s Save My Spot.

  • Allergies
  • Animal or insect bites, including tick removal or stings from jellyfish or a stingray
  • Bone fractures or simple breaks
  • Bronchitis
  • Congestion, nasal and chest
  • Cough and cold
  • Diarrhea
  • Ear infection
  • Fever
  • Flu
  • Minor burns, cuts or bleeding that may require stitches
  • Pink eye
  • Rashes
  • Sinus infection
  • Sore throat
  • Sprains / strains
  • Strep throat
  • TB Tests
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Vomiting that isn’t constant

For more information, visit

Go to the Emergency Room for true medical emergencies and traumas, including:

  • Heart attack symptoms: Chest pain, any suspicion of heart ailment, heart irregularity
  • Stroke symptoms: Weakness on one side, tingling, numbness, facial drooping
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bleeding that won’t stop
  • Blood in stool
  • Coughing blood or vomiting blood
  • Debilitating headache
  • Dehydration (weakness, no longer sweating, no urination in 12 hours, confusion, dizziness, nausea)
  • Falls while pregnant
  • Head injuries
  • High fever
  • Infant care, any symptoms if patient is younger than 3 months old
  • Seizures
  • Severe burns / cuts / wounds
  • Severe injury / trauma
  • Shortness of breath / gasping / respiratory distress
  • Slurred speech
  • Sudden paralysis
  • Vaginal bleeding with pregnancy
  • Visible fracture / broken bones / dislocation
  • Vomiting that won’t stop

For more information, visit or

Importantly, no matter which facility you go to or how you enter the Sarasota Memorial Health Care System, our staff will make sure that you receive the care you need. But you just might save yourself a little time and hassle by skipping straight to where you need to be.

For information about health insurance accepted at all SMH locations, go to copywriter, Phil Lederer

Note: You have the right to seek emergency services and care anywhere they are provided, regardless of insurance.

Written by Sarasota Memorial copywriter Philip Lederer, MA, who crafts a variety of external communications for the healthcare system. SMH's in-house wordsmith, Lederer earned his Master's degree in Public Administration and Political Philosophy from Morehead State University, Ky, and has never officially broken a bone.

Posted: Dec 5, 2023,
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