Should I go to the emergency room?

When you’re not feeling well or there’s been an accident, it’s easy to be confused about what to do next. Do you wait until morning and call your doctor? Head to your closest urgent care clinic? Or go to the emergency room?

It’s not a small decision. As the nurse manager of the Emergency Department at UofL Health – Medical Center East, I see patients every day who are worried they’re being a hypochondriac. They’re concerned, too, that care in an emergency room setting can cost several times more than it would cost at a doctor or clinic visit. But if it’s a true emergency, there’s no substitute for the kind of comprehensive testing and quick, expert response an ER can provide. The right care can save your life.

If you’re experiencing any of these serious symptoms or situations, don’t hesitate to call 911, or seek care at our emergency locations:

  • Choking
  • Difficulty breathing or passing out
  • Injuries to neck or spine, especially if there is loss of feeling or inability to move
  • Sudden confusion or inability to speak
  • Onset of paralysis of any kind
  • Drooping, weakness or numbness, especially down one side of the body
  • Head injuries with passing out, fainting or confusion
  • Severe burns
  • Intense chest pain or pressure
  • Seizures lasting more than three to five minutes
  • An unusual or severe headache, especially if it comes on quickly
  • Sudden inability to hear, speak or see
  • Dizziness or weakness that won’t go away
  • Inhaled smoke or poisonous fumes, ingesting of poisonous substances
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Broken bones, particularly if the bone is pushing through the skin
  • Deep wounds
  • Coughing or throwing up blood
  • Allergic reaction with trouble breathing, swelling or widespread hives
  • High fever combined with a headache and stiff neck
  • High fever that does not come down with medicine
  • Vomiting or diarrhea that does not stop
  • Alcohol or drug overdose
  • Suicidal thoughts

When to go to an urgent care clinic

Urgent care clinics are generally staffed by nurse practitioners, and are set up to handle many troublesome, but not life-threatening complaints. They can be a tremendous help to working parents with sick children, or those who need quick medical advice that can’t wait for a doctor’s appointment. Consider clinic care if you have:

  • Common illnesses, such as colds, the flu, earaches, sore throats, migraines, low-grade fevers and limited rashes
  • Minor injuries, such as sprains, back pain, minor cuts, burns or eye irritations.

Patients who are having symptoms related to an ongoing condition, such as cancer, may also want to contact their on-call specialist, who can direct them on whether to visit the ER.

I hope you’ll never have the need to come see me at the ER. But rest assured, when the worst happens, emergency room care is usually a good call.


UofL Health has more emergency room locations than any other health care system in the region:

Jewish Hospital
200 Abraham Flexner Way, Louisville, KY 40202

Mary & Elizabeth Hospital
1850 Bluegrass Ave, Louisville, KY 40215 

Medical Center East
3920 Dutchmans Ln, Louisville, KY 40207 

Medical Center South
1903 W Hebron Ln, Shepherdsville, KY 40165 

Medical Center Southwest
9700 Stonestreet Rd, Louisville, KY 40272

Shelbyville Hospital
727 Hospital Drive, Shelbyville, KY 40065 

UofL Hospital
530 S. Jackson Street, Louisville, KY 40202

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About Emily Carr, RN BSN

Emily graduated from the University of Evansville with a BSN and a minor in business in 2001. Upon graduation she joined the emergency department at Jewish Hospital. Emily has been in a management role since 2009 with the opening of Medical Center Northeast and assisted in the development of the Emergency Department flex team. She has been the manager at Medical Center East since 2012 and recently acquired the Outpatient Infusion Center and is working on developing this into a full service infusion and injection location for our patients.

All posts by Emily Carr, RN BSN