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Most of us have heard—or have had—our fair share of emergency room horror stories: waiting for hours and hours to be triaged by busy ER physicians and nurses, only to be sent home with no treatment or insufficient treatment for our ailments and injuries.

For residents of the greater Washington DC area, such ER woes appear to be even worse than they are for most Americans. Data shared by the Milken Institute of Public Health of George Washington University reveal that the typical wait time in DC emergency rooms of 46 minutes is nearly twice the national average of 28 minutes. The District has a whopping 736 emergency room visits per 1,000 people, compared to the national average of 415 per 1,000 people, and DC hospitals overall boast some of the highest hospital admission rates in the country.

Within the past decade, DC has also faced a primary care provider shortage —and that’s not even counting the impact of the recent pandemic. It follows that the District’s Department of Health (DOH) has designated as many as nine Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) and eight Medically Underserved Areas\Populations (MUA\P).

In response to these challenges, urgent care centers have become increasingly popular in the greater DC area. While these freestanding clinics stand to increase access to care for residents across the DC area, they aren’t without their own problems. Here’s what to expect if you or your loved one seeks help at an urgent care clinic in Washington DC.

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