Where to Seek Care When You’re Feeling Unwell

Release Date: 
February 19, 2024

UVM Health Network Staff Remind Patients of Their Options During a Busy Time

BURLINGTON, Vt. – Hospitals in the region remain at or near capacity due to patients needing care for respiratory illnesses like Covid-19, flu, and RSV, along with persistent crowding from the crisis-level lack of options for people in Vermont who need long-term care. UVM Health Network staff in Vermont and Northern New York are working hard to provide the high-quality care patients deserve, and reminding the community that there are multiple options for accessing medical care.

Patients have options when it comes to their care. When feeling unwell, the main options are primary care, urgent care, and the Emergency Department. Navigating these choices can feel challenging. Here's a comprehensive guide to help determine the appropriate place to seek care for you or your loved one. To download a visual guide, click here.

Primary Care

If your condition is non-urgent or if you require a prescription refill, contacting your primary care provider for an appointment is advisable. Your primary care team, being familiar with your medical history, can provide personalized care, often with shorter wait times for scheduled appointments. Additionally, primary care visits typically entail lower insurance co-pays, potentially saving you money. Primary care visits are excellent for:

  • Sprains
  • Cold, flu and sore throat
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea, vomiting or stomach flu
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Pink Eye

Urgent Care

For conditions that are non-emergent yet cannot wait for a scheduled appointment, urgent care facilities offer extended hours and same-day appointments. Urgent care is also an option if you do not have a primary care provider. Conditions typically cared for at urgent care include:

  • Cuts needing stitches
  • Sprains or minor fractures
  • Cold symptoms and minor respiratory issues
  • Rashes and minor allergic reactions
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Pink Eye

To find an urgent care facility near you, visit UVMHealth.org/Walkin. (This is a list of UVM Health Network urgent care facilities. There may be other urgent care or walk-in locations in your area. Be sure to check which insurance they accept.) 

Emergency Department

For serious or life-threatening conditions requiring immediate attention, the emergency department operates 24/7. Patients are triaged based on the severity of their condition, rather than arrival time. Wait times for less urgent cases can be lengthy, particularly during the evening hours. The emergency department should be utilized for conditions such as:

  • Symptoms of a heart attack or stroke
  • Chest pain or difficulty breathing
  • Severe abdominal pain, headaches, or burns
  • Seizures
  • Neck, head or spinal injuries
  • Compound fractures
  • Instances of sexual assault

Caregivers for Loved Ones With Dementia

The many people in Vermont caring for a loved one with dementia may also find themselves seeking help during challenging moments, unsure where to turn. The UVM Health Network has stood up a new resource to provide support to families and family caregivers, called the Dementia Family Caregivers Center. It provides specialized services to families and family care givers, and provides strategies for providing care at home. The program provides a pathway for family caregivers to receive knowledge, support, and skills. A peer-to-peer mentoring program matches new caregivers with more experienced ones for assistance. For more information, visit Dementia Family Caregiver Center | The University of Vermont Health Network (uvmhealth.org) or call (802-847-4589).

This information serves as a guide to aid in determining where to seek medical care. In cases of serious or life-threatening conditions, community members should not hesitate to visit an emergency department. For other concerns, contacting a primary care provider is recommended if uncertain. Most offices have a provider available 24/7 to discuss symptoms and advise on appropriate care.