No one enjoys going to an urgent care facility. It’s usually for something that wasn’t planned and isn’t enjoyable, and it can be unsettling to visit an unfamiliar location and be treated by an unfamiliar doctor.
Nonetheless, urgent care centers are essential when you need same-day care outside of normal office hours or when your doctor is not available. Additionally, these facilities are equipped to treat a wide variety of illnesses and injuries.
“The biggest challenge for urgent care doctors is putting the story together and figuring out what is chronic and what is acute that requires attention today,” says Dr. Zheng, who joined Sharp in May 2019.
If it is a chronic condition, says Dr. Zheng, patients should tell the doctor what prompted them to come to urgent care and make sure they outline their expectations.
Important facts to share with your urgent care doctor
In treating urgent care patients, Dr. Zheng says medical personnel will generally follow the pneumonic “OLDCARTS” — Onset, Location, Duration, Character, Aggravating factors, Relieving factors, Timing and Severity — to figure out the history of the illness and determine the scope of the problem.
To help with this process, patients should be prepared to answer:
- When did your symptoms start?
- Where do you feel pain or discomfort?
- How long have you felt this way?
- How would you describe how you feel?
- What makes you feel worse?
- What makes you feel better?
Know what meds you are taking
Dr. Zheng also emphasizes the importance of patients bringing in any over-the-counter medications they have been using, in addition to knowing which prescription medications they take.
“Many over-the-counter cold medications have multiple ingredients, including acetaminophen (Tylenol), which could cause accidental overdose and serious liver problems,” says Dr. Zheng. “We want to make sure we don’t prescribe the same medication or give them anything that might interact with it.”
In addition, Dr. Zheng advises patients to tell the doctor if their illness is a recurrence of a prior issue. “If it happened before and something helped, they need to let us know,” she says.
Know when to go
Finally, timing your urgent care visit is another factor patients should take into consideration.
If possible, says Dr. Zheng, patients should avoid coming to urgent care in the last hour before closing to ensure that the medical staff has sufficient time to address their concerns. This will provide time for appropriate tests and treatment to be performed in urgent care prior to closing time.
By following these suggestions, patients can maximize their visit to urgent care.
View wait times and locations of Sharp Rees-Stealy Urgent Care Centers in San Diego County.