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Though there are a few different types of after hours urgent care centers, most of them perform the same basic procedures. In general, these centers are separated by the level of care they are able to give a patient. Some may be set up to offer consultation and basic medical care while others may have equipment that can be used to provide care for patients who are seriously ill or injured. Technically, however, in order to be considered true after hours urgent care centers, these medical facilities must be prepared to treat many different conditions on site and must contain a number of diagnostic tools. These centers must also be run by a medical doctor.
All after hours urgent care centers are open beyond the range of the normal business day. Few, however, are open 24 hours. For the most part, these centers are open on weekends or in the evening hours, and they usually close before midnight. Additionally, these centers are all open to walk-in patients, though they may also take appointments.
The most basic of the types of after hours urgent care centers offer medical services to people with mild injuries and illnesses. Patients are usually able to get themselves to the urgent care center on their own, which is why these centers are also called ambulatory centers. In some centers that offer only basic service, patients may be seen by a nurse and then referred to a doctor at another center or at an emergency room if needed.
Other after hours urgent care centers may offer services to treat patients with a variety of different conditions. These centers are usually equipped with diagnostic tools such as x-ray or electrocardiogram machines. Patients who come to these centers are conscious though they may require a friend to drive them, especially if there has been an injury to a patient's leg. A doctor sees the patients that come into these facilities and may refer them to other doctors if the injury or illness cannot be treated onsite.
Some types of after hours urgent care centers may offer emergency care. These centers are often referred to as B emergency departments and are characterized by their capacity to treat patients with more severe or life threatening conditions. Urgent care centers that offer emergency care are not the norm, however, so patients should still be taken to an emergency room if a condition appears to be severe or life-threatening.