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Urgent vs. Emergency Care: What You Need to Know

It's Important to Understand the Difference Between Urgency and Emergency

Emergency Department

Call 911 immediately or go directly to the nearest emergency department for life-threatening conditions, such as:

  • Chest pain
  • Stroke
  • Head injury
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Seizure
  • Bleeding
  • Broken bones
  • Major burns

Urgent Care and Walk-in Clinics

Urgent care and walk-in clinics provide medical treatment of illnesses or injuries that require immediate attention but are not life-threatening. If you can’t get in immediately to see your primary care doctor, don’t have a doctor, or are visiting from out of town, you can walk in for medical care and avoid a trip to the emergency department. Conditions that require immediate attention, but are not life-threatening include:

General Urgent Care

St. Luke's has in-person urgent care clinics as well as virtual urgent care.

  • Fever
  • Ear pain
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Respiratory illness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Urinary infection
  • Sprains and strains
  • Puncture wounds and lacerations
  • Minor burns

Orthopedic Urgent Care

St. Luke's also offers orthopedic urgent care in Boise for a variety of conditions:

  • Sports injuries
  • Sprains, strains, and dislocations
  • Suspected fractures
  • Ligament tears
  • Cast or splint issues
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Overuse injuries
  • Painful, swollen joints
  • Pediatric injuries

Virtual Urgent Care Now Available!

Access Urgent Care Services Wherever You Are

St. Luke's now offers virtual urgent care services seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., if appropriate depending on your symptoms. 


If you're an existing St. Luke's patient, simply log in to your MyChart account, answer a few questions about your symptoms, and begin a virtual visit with the next available St. Luke's primary care provider.


You may still have to wait a bit, as you would at an in-person urgent care clinic, but you'll be waiting wherever you choose.