San Carlos Center Urgent Care
The San Carlos Center Urgent Care of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) provides high-quality medical care promptly and compassionately to both children and adults. Our physicians and nurses work closely as a team to care for each patient.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an urgent health care need?
When a medical problem arises that requires immediate attention, it may be difficult to know if it is truly an emergency, or whether it is simply an urgent medical issue. What is the difference? Generally, an emergency is a condition that may threaten an individual's life or cause impairment. Urgent care can treat medical problems such as broken bones, burns and lacerations (cuts) that, while not emergencies, require care within 24 hours. (Please see the list below.)
If a medical problem is life-threatening, call 911 immediately, and care will be provided at the nearest emergency room (ER). However, ER visits should be reserved for true emergencies, such as life-threatening accidents or chest pain. A visit to the ER without an actual emergency can be costly and inefficient, and detract medical care from individuals who truly need emergency care.
For urgent medical concerns, patients should call PAMF first. Even if a patient's own physician is not available, physicians are always on call, and advice nurses can handle many problems over the phone during regular business hours. If the medical problem is not life-threatening, but warrants prompt care (within 24 hours), the San Carlos Urgent Care Center is open 365 days a year, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. [new hours as of 6/1/16].
- Cough, sore throat, respiratory infections
- Ear aches
- Back pain, body aches
- Burning with urination
- Colds, sinus infections, allergies
- Eye irritation, swelling or pain
- Sprains, muscle strains
- Rashes, cuts, scrapes, wounds
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- Animal bites
- Mild to moderate asthma
- Broken bones
- Stomach pain
What happens when I arrive?
Upon arriving at the Urgent Care center, you will sign in with the registration clerk so we may obtain the information necessary to treat you. Please bring your medical insurance card and valid identification such as a driver’s license or passport. Our front desk staff may ask you to wear a mask if you have a cough. As soon as an examination room is available, you will be called by a nurse who will take your vital signs and a brief medical history. A physician will then see you as soon as possible.
How long will it take?
Patients are triaged shortly after arrival in the Urgent Care Center. This means that their medical conditions are assessed, and critically ill or injured patients are seen first. This is likely the case if you see Urgent Care patients who registered after you being called first. Generally, all other Urgent Care patients are seen in order of arrival.
We see patients without requiring an appointment. This makes prediction of patient flow and wait times difficult and uncertain, and we ask for your patience if you are here at a time when many other patients have also dropped in to be seen. Rest assured, we recognize that your time is valuable and are working as hard and as fast as we can to take care of you quickly.
What happens next?
You may be treated and discharged shortly after being examined by an Urgent Care provider. You do not need to "check out," unless the receptionist has asked you to do so.
If your problem is more complicated, you may be asked to wait for results from laboratory tests, X-rays or CT scans. Blood test results generally take from one to two hours to receive, depending upon which tests were ordered. X-rays and CT scans are reviewed right away by your Urgent Care physician, and again by our radiologists within two business days, when any new findings would be reported to you.
Medical treatments may be provided in the Urgent Care Center, such as breathing treatments, or intravenous fluids and medications. This can take minutes to hours.
If you need to be admitted to the hospital, we will take care of the arrangements. We will expedite any necessary follow-up referrals to other departments at PAMF or to our community physicians.
- While our hours do extend to 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., if you believe your illness is serious please visit us earlier in the day, so that we can take full advantage of our radiology and laboratory departments on your behalf before they close.
- Please bring in all your medication bottles to show us, or a list of the names and doses of your medications.
- If you have a stomach problem, or know you may need surgery, please refrain from eating and drinking.
- If you have questions about what will happen next, or reasons for delays, please ask any of our receptionists or nurses.
- Feel free to use your cell phones in our exam rooms after the nurse and doctor have left the room.
- We welcome up to two visitors per exam room; one visitor if you are in the Observation Area.
- It is important to us that you fully understand any treatment or follow-up instructions given to you prior to leaving the Urgent Care Center. Please ask any questions you may have about them, and please call us for any questions that may arise later at (650) 696-4427.