Emergency Room versus Express Care. What's the difference?

Published 01/24/2018

When illness strikes, is an Express Care or an Emergency Room your go-to destination for treatment? Your condition is serious, but does it warrant Emergency Room level care? What's the difference between Express Care and Emergency Room care? We answer these questions and more below.

Express Care can treat virtually any non-emergency need, such as lacerations, upper respiratory illnesses, sprains, sports injuries, minor accidents, sore throat, and other conditions requiring prompt attention. 

Emergency Rooms are appropriate for strokes, severe bleeding, chest pain, breathing difficulties, head trauma, severe burns and other situations where every lost second could mean life, death or disability. The following can help you determine whether emergency room care, Express care, or a call to 911 is needed. 

When to call 911

  • When someone is choking
  • When a person stops breathing
  • Head injuries involving confusion, fainting and loss of consciousness
  • An injury to the spine or neck, especially involving an inability to move or loss of feeling
  • Lightning strike or electric shock
  • Severe burns
  • Severe chest pressure or pain
  • Seizures lasting 3 to 5 minutes

When to visit an Emergency Room

  • Fainting or passing out
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Pain in jaw or arm indicative of a cardiac episode
  • Sudden, unusually severe headache
  • Speech problems or trouble seeing, walking or moving
  • Sudden confusion, dizziness, weakness or drooping on one side of the body
  • Ingestion or inhalation of poisonous substances
  • Severe bleeding
  • Severe bone breaks, especially if a bone is protruding from the skin
  • Deep wounds and severe burns
  • Coughing or throwing up blood
  • Extreme pain
  • Severe allergic reactions involving hives, swelling or breathing difficulties
  • Very high fevers
  • Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Overdoses
  • Seizures

When to visit an Express Care

  • Colds
  • Influenza
  • Earaches
  • Sore throats
  • Migraines
  • Low-grade fevers
  • Minor rashes
  • Sprains
  • Back pain
  • Minor cuts and burns
  • Minor fractures
  • Minor eye injuries

To ensure that you make the best decision for you and your family, review the previous guide, so you can make an appropriate plan of action based on your timely needs. If you do require a higher level of care after being assessed at an Express Care, you may be transported to an Emergency Department.

South County Hospital's Emergency Room is located on the Hospital campus at 100 Kenyon Ave., Wakefield, RI.

South County Health offers two Express Care locations: (1) East Greenwich, 3461 South County Trail (2) Westerly, 268 Post Rd.