Walk-in medical clinics have popped up everywhere in the last decade. Before these clinics were even a thing, you either had to make an appointment with your doctor and hope that he or she could see you sooner than later or head to the hospital and sit in the emergency room for several hours. If you have never been to a walk-in medical clinic, here are the five "W's" about such clinics to help you determine if a clinic would benefit you the next time you are sick or injured.

1. Who

Walk-in clinics are also known as urgent care clinics. They are run by one or two doctors or several physician's assistants who are just like doctors. They are available to anyone who has an urgent need to see a doctor but does not have an emergency medical condition. For example, if you have a severe sore throat, fatigue, and a fever -- not a broken bone that is sticking out of a gaping wound in your leg, you can go to a walk-in clinic.

2. What

Minor or closed injuries, illnesses, contagious illnesses, rashes, and other minor health problems are treated at walk-in clinics. The whole point to walk-in clinics is to reduce the number of people waiting for treatment in an emergency room while providing more immediate health care or treatment during your doctor's off-hours. You can be seen and treated sooner without having to sit in an emergency room.

3. When

Most walk-in clinics open very early in the morning. They stay open until after supper hours in the evening, although many of them also provide on-call hours for things that happen after the clinic has closed. Everyone is seen on a first-come, first-served basis, but they are often treated faster because no one waiting has to contend with doctors who are treating incoming emergency cases.

4. Where

Walk-in clinics are located in strip malls, inside pharmacies and drug stores, in discount retail stores, and even inside club or bulk purchase stores. If you do not currently need any medical care or treatment, it is a good idea to locate where the nearest clinics are. That way, you can easily drive to any one of them when you do need urgent care.

5. Why

Your own doctor probably cannot see you for a day or more. You may be injured or become ill on the weekend. Emergency rooms are designed to treat the most life-threatening cases first, which overrules most anything you would be seeking treatment for. A walk-in medical clinic resolves all of these issues and then some. All you have to do is walk in, create a patient profile with the receptionist, and sit a few minutes to be seen. (Sometimes you can be seen immediately if the clinic is not busy.)

Contact a medical office like Milford Hospital for more information and assistance.