Skip to Main Content

Urgent Care or Emergency Department?

Urgent care or emergency department? Choosing the right level of care.

Choosing the right level of care isn’t always simple. Below we provide a quick summary of Virginia Mason Franciscan Health’s primary care, urgent care and emergency services, so knowing where to go is one less thing you’ll have to worry about.

  • If the situation doesn’t require immediate care, turn to your primary care provider. They can provide routine health exams; regular screenings; vaccinations; prescription refills; and treat illnesses like the flu and ear infections, and minor injuries, partnering with you to follow your overall health.

    Primary care needs differ for each individual and change depending on your stage of life. That’s why we have health care experts in a variety of fields providing care and expertise for your entire family, including:

    • Family medicine offers preventive and ongoing health care for all ages, including pediatric services, obstetrics and routine gynecologic care.
    • Internal medicine focuses on adult care. Internal medicine doctors called internists specialize in managing complex illnesses and chronic conditions. 
    • Pediatric care includes health and wellness services for children from infancy through adolescence. 
    • Sports medicine provides injury prevention and nonsurgical musculoskeletal care for sports-related injuries for both athletes and those who wish to become more active. Some primary care sports medicine physicians also provide sports concussion management.

    Online scheduling

    You can schedule appointments online, at your convenience—whether you are a new or returning patient.

  • For those times when you need care the same day, but your provider isn’t available—such as evenings and weekends—urgent care offers walk-in appointments and extended hours. Virginia Mason Franciscan Health clinics provide digital X-ray, stitches and care for minor injuries and illnesses, like cuts, lacerations, minor burns, sprains and infections.

    Visit urgent/walk-in care for: 

    • Allergic reaction
    • Bladder infection 
    • Cold and flu symptoms
    • Cuts, scrapes, bites, burns or rashes
    • Earaches or headaches
    • Low-grade fevers
    • Pink eye
    • Simple fractures (bones not broken through skin)
    • Sinus infections
    • Sprains or strains
    • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Life-threatening emergencies and trauma require emergency treatment. If you or a loved one has serious symptoms, go to the nearest hospital Emergency Services department or call 911 immediately. Our Emergency Services departments are open 24 hours a day. Symptoms that require emergency care include:

    • Chest pain or other symptoms of a heart attack
    • Coughing or vomiting blood
    • Deep cuts or bleeding that won’t stop
    • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    • Numbness in the face, arm or leg
    • Seizures
    • Severe abdominal pain
    • Severe burns
    • Sudden blurred vision
    • Sudden dizziness, weakness, loss of coordination or balance
    • Sudden, severe headache
    • Any other condition you believe is life-threatening

Winter Surge causing capacity and staffing challenges

A winter surge has arrived and there are three circulating respiratory viruses active in the community – RSV, COVID and influenza – that are putting a strain on our healthcare system. Hospitals and healthcare systems throughout the Puget Sound region are reporting an increase in patient volumes and many, including ours, have activated surge plans, including extending staffing ratios, using temporary bed locations and boarding patients.

The Tacoma Pierce County Health Department and King County Public Health websites are great resources for flu information.

Higher than normal patient volumes and longer wait times

Emergency Departments (EDs) and urgent and prompt care clinics are recording record volumes. We are sorry for any inconvenience this causes. We are doing our best to work closely with our hospitals and clinics to support patients during this time of increased demand.