patient satisfied with urgent care physican

The main differences between Urgent Care and Retail Clinics

When it comes to healthcare access and providers, patients now have a variety of options of healthcare whether it be urgent care or a retail clinic.

However, patients need to understand that these healthcare facilities may be extremely different in terms of what they offer patients and their ability to deliver comprehensive care. So what are the key differences between retail clinics and urgent care centers?

Retail Clinics

Retail clinics offer walk-in services for patients shopping located inside of retail stores, like supermarkets and department stores. Typically, retail clinics are found in big-box stores like Walmart and pharmacies like Walgreens. Instead of physicians, these clinics tend to staff mostly nurse practitioners and similar medical assistants.

Different retail clinic operators provide different services, but generally a retail clinic usually offers symptom relief for common illnesses and injuries, including a sore throat, cold and flu symptoms, allergies, minor cuts, burns, rashes and headaches. Some retail clinics may also perform immunizations, annual physicals and health screenings.

The operating hours for retail clinics vary some are only open for a few hours while others are open during normal business hours.

Urgent Care Centers


When compared to retail clinics, urgent care centers are generally more advanced in their abilities to deliver comprehensive care, the medical technology onsite, and the medical staff. Typically, urgent care centers have at least one board-certified physician trained in bedside manner, as well as clinical expertise, that is available to see patients during operating hours.

Most urgent care centers are equipped with the equipment like x-ray machines and diagnostic lab equipment to facilitate more severe urgent services and manage injuries like broken bones. Whereas emergency rooms typically have long wait times, the average wait time at an urgent care center is 15 minutes or less.

Most urgent care centers have extended operating hours, and at a minimum are open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, seven days a week.

Which provider can best help you manage your healthcare conditions?


Both types of medical providers aim to provide fast, affordable, and convenient healthcare services. However, urgent care centers are far better equipped to treat more than basic injures or illnesses.

For example, patients with broken bones wouldn’t be able to go to a retail clinic for treatment. But that same patient could go to a nearby urgent care center for treatment without the need for an emergency room.

Ultimately, patients with urgent care needs that aren’t necessarily emergency medical situations should go to an urgent care center ASAP!

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