Orthopedic Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room: Why and When

by Paige McNally, PA-C and Anshu Pal, PA-C

Orthopedic Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room: Why and When

Ortho On Call is OrthoVirginia’s orthopedic urgent care. A walk-in clinic, we see orthopedic issues that don’t require the emergency room but do require care quickly. No appointments are needed, but you can register online ahead of time and reserve your spot in line. There are nine locations around the state.

Situations for Ortho On Call

Ortho On Call is designed to treat acute injuries. Acute injuries are injuries that have recently happened. Chronic conditions, which are longer term, are usually better treated at a scheduled appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. We see lots of sports injuries like sprains, strains and bruises. If you fall and feel like you are having a lot of pain or a lot of swelling, this would be an appropriate place to come. We prefer to see injuries that have happened within the past two weeks. We also see work-related injuries or workers comp injuries. The northern Virginia and Richmond locations will do sports physicals as well.

Situations for the emergency room

Emergency rooms move at a quicker pace so for injuries that would require immediate medical attention, we advise going straight to the emergency room in order to not delay treatment. Symptoms like chest pain or shortness of breath need to be seen in an emergency room, especially shortness of breath after a rib injury because that can indicate a collapsed lung. Other conditions that should be seen in the ER include new bowel or bladder dysfunction or incontinent and open fractures, complex big bone injuries. These injuries are ones where the bone is sticking out of the skin, there is a large cut exposed to the air or the injury shows any kind of infection. Lastly, any kind of head trauma needs to be seen in an emergency room.

Services offered

If you need imaging, we have in-house x-ray machines but do not have immediate access to MRIs, CAT scans or ultrasound EMGs. Those are tests that need to be ordered by a physician or can be done in the emergency room. Ortho on Call does have the capability to give joint injections or cortisone shots when deemed necessary, but we do not have the capability to start an IV. If you need IV fluids or medications, please go to the emergency room. We also do not have the capability to dispense medication at Ortho On Call. We can prescribe medication since we are all nurse practitioners or physician assistants. Durable medical equipment (DME) is available so we have wrist braces, boots, ankle lace up braces, slings and crutches that can keep injuries stable until follow up appointments. These are all temporary stabilizations so if a cast is needed, a physician would need to be seen.

There are no age restrictions for Ortho On Call. We will see patients as newborns all the way through the end of their life.

One of the wonderful things about Ortho On Call is the open communication with our different offices. We have a whole network of support so if a patient comes in and needs surgery or if we have questions, we have teams of OrthoVirginia physicians to support us. Before you leave Ortho On Call we can schedule your follow-up appointment with a local OrthoVirginia physician for additional treatment.