Picture this: it’s a cold, windy Saturday afternoon in late November and you’ve decided today is the perfect day to hang Christmas lights on the roof of your house. As you ascend the ladder, you lose your balance and fall to the ground, hurting your ankle. After a self-assessment, you decide to go in for treatment. Do you need to go the emergency room? Should you wait and call your doctor when their office opens? Should you head to the walk-in clinic?
Whether it’s a hurt ankle, migraine or fever, we’ve all wondered where the most appropriate place is to go for treatment. No one likes to be in the emergency room, and no one wants to wait for an appointment. So, how do you know where to go?
To better understand where you should seek treatment, you need to consider if your symptoms require emergent or urgent attention. If your symptoms are severe or life-threatening (emergent), head straight to the Emergency Room.
“The Emergency Room is for true emergencies with the most critical patients being seen first,” said Jeffrey Sather, MD, a physician in Trinity Health’s Emergency/ Trauma Center. “People with conditions such as chest pain, stroke symptoms, unconsciousness, difficulty breathing or low oxygen saturations, or heavy, uncontrollable bleeding should come to the ER immediately.” In addition to the critical symptoms listed above, the emergency room is appropriate for patients who have been in a major trauma incident such as an auto accident, who are experiencing severe abdominal pain, or who have an injury needing repair such as a major laceration or broken bone.
If your symptoms are not severe or life-threatening, your best option is to call your doctor’s office first. Most providers save space each day to enable them to see their own patients who have simple, acute issues such as cold or flu symptoms, and other minor issues. Acute issues are those that have started recently and lasted less than 5 days. If you are unable to see your primary care provider, then FirstCare Walk-In Clinic is the next option. “You’ll be freeing up the emergency room for patients in need of life saving care,” Sather said. “We have a tremendous team at FirstCare; you’ll be in excellent hands.”
Primary Care: Simple acute illnesses and chronic condition management
If your injury or illness is not urgent or life-threatening, is a simple acute issue, or is the result of a chronic condition, make an appointment with your primary care provider. Your provider knows your health history, including what medications you are taking and what chronic conditions might need to be considered in your treatment.
FirstCare Walk-In Clinic
For acute health conditions that don’t require an ER visit, and when your primary care provider can’t see you within your expectations, FirstCare Walk-In Clinic is available.
“FirstCare is designed for patients to seek care when they have new symptoms that require an appointment sooner than is available by their primary care provider,” said Angie Heintz, FNP-C. “If a patient does not have a primary care provider, FirstCare is available for their acute concerns with the expectation that they establish care with a primary care provider for follow up and management of current and future health concerns.”
A Minot native, Heintz joined FirstCare right out of graduate school and has been practicing there for three years. “I consider it to be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling jobs in the medical field that I have had to date.” Prior to joining FirstCare, Heintz was a critical care/trauma and flight nurse at Trinity Health.
At FirstCare, Heintz and her colleagues treat adults and children of all ages, with all types of conditions. “Acute care is unpredictable,” said Heintz. “We never know what the day will bring or how high our patient volume will be.”
Conditions that require the care of the walkin clinic include: fevers, chills, cold symptoms, minor head injuries (without loss of consciousness), simple fractures and sprains, mild wounds and lacerations, and rashes. (See Know Where to Go for a more detailed listing.) The providers at FirstCare do not provide chronic pain management or refill prescriptions for opiates or controlled substances; nor do they treat acute panic attacks or alcohol/substance abuse withdrawal.
In 2017, when FirstCare opened, the clinic was staffed with two full-time providers, which has grown to six. “We have an incredibly dynamic group of providers, nurses and CNAs that I am proud to work beside every single day,” said Heintz. “The teamwork and camaraderie combined with positive energy, enthusiastic personalities, and years of healthcare experience make FirstCare a positive and desirable place to work and serve patients.”
FirstCare is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends and holidays with no appointment necessary. The clinic is located on the second floor of Trinity Health Medical Arts, 400 Burdick Expy E, in Minot. While the clinic does not take appointments, it helps manage expectations by posting current wait-times on Trinity’s website: www.trinityhealth.org