Urgent Care or Hospital?

How do you know when it’s really an emergency?

If you’re a parent, I’d put money on the fact that you’ve probably been to the hospital a time or two outside of your child’s birth. I know I sure have. Our first year of being parents, we visited the Children’s Hospital more times than I care to admit—for all kinds of reasons. And with my second child, too, surprise trips to the emergency room at Children’s became a fairly regular occurrence.

After a while, however, you learn that not every situation calls for a rush to the ER. Like earlier this month, for example. It was Labor Day, and we’d just rolled back into town from a fabulous weekend in Grand Lake. After a little settling in and unpacking, the kids kicked off their shoes to go play outside. Within seconds, my 3-year-old was screaming. Poor little guy had stepped on a nail. Not just any nail, mind you. A rusty, crusty nail that was three inches long and as crooked as a witch’s finger. Seriously. Where had this nail come from? It’s still a mystery, given that it looked like it was from the 1800s and our house is eight years old. But there it was in our grass, and it punctured my boy’s foot just enough to make a very small red mark.

And—Parent’s Law—these things always happen at night or on a weekend, don’t they?

So we called the after-hours line at our pediatrician’s office and were advised that although my son’s tetanus shots were up to date, it would be wise to go to a hospital or urgent care facility that could clean up the wound and make sure all was OK.

Earlier this year, my boy had woken up in the night crying from what we soon discovered was a bad case of strep throat. That trip to Children’s wound up costing us close to $1,000—because of how the visit was classified by insurance, we think. Ever since, we’ve been a little fearful of gallivanting off to the E.R. any time someone at our house injures themselves. So we’ve made a few weekend trips this year to a local urgent care facility for minor things. It’s called Rocky Mountain Urgent Care (the Smoky Hill clinic).

We haven’t had a great experience with this place for reasons I will summarize as poor customer service. When I mentioned this to our pharmacist once, she recommended OnPoint Urgent Care a little further from our house. So when my boy stepped on the nail, we decided to go to this place instead.

And what a great decision! OnPoint Urgent Care is a fantastic facility. It feels like a mini-hospital, and they really do treat situations with a sense of urgency, something that definitely lacked at the other place. We were seen quickly, and everyone—from the receptionist to the internist to the nurse to the doctor—was courteous and knowledgeable. They even have an onsite pharmacy, which was closed when we were there unfortunately, but I was still impressed by this. According to their website, OnPoint is staffed with board-certified emergency physicians, a rarity among urgent care facilities. We saw Dr. Jeffrey Bushnell, who was great. To top it all off, two days after our visit, the DOCTOR called our house to ask how my little guy was doing.

I wouldn’t take serious, life-threatening issues to OnPoint over Children’s, but let’s face it. Kids get hurt. A lot. If your child has a medical issue that needs immediate attention, but his or her health isn’t at serious risk, an urgent care facility is a great solution. Personally, I feel so much happier knowing that when my kiddo wakes up with a tummy ache on Saturday morning, we have a good alternative to the emergency room, which is sure to be packed with more serious medical situations (and will be a three-hour excursion).

If you’ve had a good experience at other urgent care facilities in other parts of town, chime in!