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What you should know about freestanding emergency rooms

Learn more about emergency rooms, freestanding ERs and urgent care clinics
and when to visit an ER rather than an urgent care center.

February 05, 2024

When faced with an illness or injury, sometimes it’s hard to know where to go for treatment. With so many options for care, including emergency rooms and urgent care clinics, understanding where to turn during a medical emergency can save precious time and provide the best possible outcome.

What is a freestanding emergency room?

Freestanding emergency rooms (FSERs) are off-campus ERs that are affiliated with hospitals and are an extension of a hospital's emergency room. How you will know: Look at the name of the ER to tell if it is affiliated with a larger health system or hospital. The name may contain the name of the health system or indicate the ER is a department of the hospital.

When you need a facility that is open 24/7 and offers a higher level of care to deal with an emergency situation, a hospital-owned and operated emergency room is your best option for a number of reasons. While FSERs are structurally separate from hospitals, they are capable of delivering emergency services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The same quality care, closer to home

At HCA Virginia, each FSER serves as an extension of an HCA Virginia Health System hospital. They are staffed by board-certified emergency room physicians and nurses with experience treating emergent injuries and serious medical conditions. HCA Virginia FSERs are subject to the same licensing and operational requirements as acute care facilities.

Each FSER has a dedicated ambulance bay for the intake of emergency medical services patients and is also able to take care of walk-in patients. There is a seamless transition of care should someone need to be transferred to an inpatient hospital setting. Within HCA Virginia, our FSERs treat the same clinical conditions as emergency rooms within hospital facilities regardless of patients’ insurance status or ability to pay.

Some medical emergencies that require a trip to an ER or FSER include:

  • Suspected heart attack
  • Suspected stroke
  • Trouble breathing
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Broken bones
  • Severe burns
  • Deep wounds with heavy bleeding
  • High fever
  • Uncontrolled nausea, diarrhea or dehydration
  • Suspected poisoning
  • Drug/alcohol overdose

It’s important that you seek out the appropriate care setting based on the severity of your needs. HCA Virginia has over twenty emergency rooms across the state.

Find an emergency room near you

Advantages of FSERs include:

Board-certified physicians and specially trained staff: Patients are seen by board-certified and board-eligible emergency medicine physicians and emergency RNs. Often, they are the same physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers who practice at the primary ER location in the hospital.

Full-service care: FSERs are equipped to handle true medical emergencies such as life-threatening illnesses and injuries expertly and efficiently and with many of the same resources and personnel of a hospital ER, including laboratory techs, radiology/imaging CT and X-ray techs, patient access registrars, pharmacists and paramedics/ED techs.

Pediatric expertise and training: Your child's injury or illness is important. The Virginia FSERs are pediatric-ready emergency rooms, which means you can trust our specialists to know how to work with and treat your child on their level. If you child needs a higher level of care, we can move kids to our pediatric ER in Richmond, VA.

Lower average wait times: The average wait time to see a provider at our FSERs is lower than the average wait time at most area hospital-based ERs, according to publicly reported data.

Insurance acceptance: Because FSERs operate as a department of a hospital, you can be sure they accept the same insurance plans and adhere to all state and federal regulatory compliance requirements for acute care hospitals.

Seamless transition of care: If patients need a higher level of care that can only be provided by a hospital, transferring from an FSERs to its main hospital or a hospital within its network is seamless.

24/7/365 service: FSERs are always open, just like hospital ERs.

Recognized by Medicare and Medicaid: HCA Virginia Health System FSERs are recognized by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as emergency departments.

Urgent care, ER or your doctor? Call 911 or go to the ER for: heart attacks, head injuries, seizures, prolonged or high fevers, broken bones. Go to an urgent care clinic for flu shots, cold or flu symptoms, serious cuts, stiches, sprains, X-rays or routine tests and vaccinations. Call your doctor for: common illnesses, routine tests, shots or vaccinations, health exams or other non-life-threatening situations.

When to visit an urgent care clinic, not a freestanding ER

For less severe illnesses and injuries that don’t require emergency treatment, urgent care clinics may be the better option. HCA Virginia Health System, our CareNow® Urgent Care clinics treat non-emergent medical problems that can develop unexpectedly and require immediate attention, filling the gap between primary care physicians and hospital emergency rooms.

Our urgent care clinics treat a wide range of medical issues, with care provided by trained specialists. Common reasons to visit a CareNow® Urgent Care clinic might include:

  • Acid reflux
  • Bug bites or stings
  • Burns (minor)
  • Cold or flu symptoms
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Cuts or wounds
  • Ear infections
  • Earaches
  • Eczema
  • Fevers
  • Migraines
  • Rashes or hives
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Sore throat or strep throat
  • Sprains or strains
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Warts

Urgent care clinics are a broadly used form of care for many and are seen as convenient, quick solutions for a host of medical needs. Find a CareNow® Urgent Care clinic near you.

When in doubt, call Consult-A-Nurse® for free medical advice

Do you need help deciding if you or a loved one should go to the ER, visit a CareNow® Urgent Care clinic or consult your family physician? Our expert nurses can help you understand symptoms, manage a chronic condition or learn about treatment options and medical procedures. Free medical advice is just one phone call away, whether you’re a new parent worried about your child's fever, or you’re caring for an aging parent. It’s simple, free and can offer you the peace of mind you need. Call Consult-A-Nurse® at (833) 521-3627.

Caring for families across Virginia

As healthcare continues to evolve, we know you are looking for high-quality and convenient options for care, diagnosis and treatment. HCA Virginia is committed to expanding access to emergency care in our region when seconds matter.

Find an emergency room near you

February 05, 2024

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