Health Literacy

What to Do if You Need a Doctor Outside of Clinic Hours


Falling sick or getting injured takes a second. And it doesn’t always coincide with the clinic opening their doors the following morning. So what do you do if you need to see the family doctor and the clinic is shut?

Make an after hours appointment

Many clinics allow patients to book an after hours appointment with their doctors. This varies from clinic to clinic, and it’s vital that you understand their policies first. You should only use this service if it’s an emergency. Something that really can’t wait until tomorrow. It’s a good idea to call your local clinic to find out what their processes are with after hours appointments. You should then write down their number and keep it in a safe and accessible place. This is crucially important if you or a loved one is prone to need medical attention.

Make an appointment in the morning

If your condition isn’t severe, the best thing to do is wait until the morning. This might be the case when you’re feeling like your developing a cold. But you should always know the difference between minor illness and something more serious. Start by searching online to check that your symptoms aren’t severe. You can find dozens of reputable medical websites. Simply plug your symptoms in, and they’ll tell you if you need immediate medical attention. You can also consider visiting the nearest pharmacy. Many have longer operating hours compared to clinics. You can describe your condition, and the pharmacist can give you some medicine. This, of course, doesn’t apply for everything. If you happen to injure yourself, you might need to go to the emergency room.

Go to the emergency room

Because hospitals face a high number of patients, you should always leave this as the last resort option. Granted, some conditions and injuries require immediate medical attention. And in these cases, you’d almost always go to the ER first. If you’re unsure whether you need immediate help, consider trying to arrange an after hours appointment.

If you or a family member is vulnerable, make preparations

As we age, we become more susceptible to medical problems. If anyone falls into this category, make sure you have a plan. You could write down the telephone numbers of doctors and medical professionals. Or you can make arrangements for regular home visits. Then you can make the arrangements in case something happens outside of your local clinic’s opening hours. It’s a good idea to sit down and discuss all of this with everyone who would be involved. And don’t forget to consult your local doctor for their opinion too.

Knowing what to do is crucial

Accidents and injuries can occur without warning. And when they do, you want to have the safe knowledge that you can get medical help when you need it. Make sure you understand your clinic’s policies. Consider waiting until the morning if you have symptoms that aren’t serious. Have some plan in place for elderly and vulnerable relatives. A trip to the ER should be the worst case scenario.

Zara Jones is a valued contributor to various CosmoBC's blogs.

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