Why Wait Times Increase at Urgent Care During the Holidays

Urgent care centers and emergency rooms (ERs) throughout the U.S. consistently strive to put new measures into place to reduce patient wait times. However, during the holiday season, a spike in wait times tends to be inevitable, leaving waiting rooms full of sick people. 

While wait times are likely to be more extended throughout the entire holiday season, the period between Christmas and New Year’s is often even worse.

The increased wait times at urgent care centers are caused by many factors, which can leave patients waiting several hours to be seen by a medical professional. Below, this post will explore the many situations that can occur during the holiday season that contribute to these lengthy urgent care wait times.

Causes for Lengthy Wait Times

Many factors often cause lengthy wait times throughout the holidays. Some of the most common reasons for long wait times include:

Peak of Cold, Flu, and COVID-19 

One primary reason is the cold weather. The holiday season happens to be during the same time that the flu and the common cold tend to float around, which results in overall more patient volume. 

The holiday season is a joyous time, full of visits with friends and family, but spending more time inside means more contact with people. More contact can lead to an increase in the spread of viral illnesses. In addition, the rise of COVID-19 cases during the winter can fill waiting rooms with even more patients than usual, including those waiting for COVID-19 testing.

Staff Scheduling Concerns

Given the rise of respiratory illnesses spreading during the holiday season, this also poses the issue of more staff calling out. Fewer available staff can then contribute to longer wait times for patients. In addition, many staff may take off time to spend with their families for Thanksgiving, New Year’s, Christmas, and other holidays. In turn, this can leave urgent care centers short on staff, scrambling to hire more temporary staff to fill in during the holiday season.

Shortened Hours or Closures of Doctors’ Offices

Urgent care centers may also fill up during the holiday season with patients who typically see their doctor in an outpatient office. If doctor’s offices are closed, many patients will turn to urgent care centers with minor issues or non-emergent concerns. This can make wait times extra long for those with more pressing health concerns. 

Neglecting Chronic Conditions

During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, some patients neglect the maintenance of their chronic conditions. Whether it’s attending holiday parties or shopping, patients with conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes may ignore regular visits with doctors. 

This, combined with a poor diet, can leave individuals with chronic conditions at a higher risk of developing illness. For this reason, urgent care centers often see a rise in patient volume during the holiday season.


Some urgent cares may also experience a higher patient volume due to holiday-related accidents. This could be outdoor injuries related to holiday decorations, car accidents, or injuries/illnesses associated with alcohol intoxication.

Understanding the Need for Urgent Care vs. Emergency Care

Patients must understand the difference between an urgent care visit and an emergency room visit. Urgent care services are an excellent choice for conditions that need to be addressed promptly but are not considered emergencies. Some examples of conditions that can be treated in urgent care include flu symptoms, dehydration, minor cuts or wounds, or sprains and strains. Urgent care can also be helpful for the treatment of urinary tract infections, diarrhea, earaches, or stomach aches.

On the other hand, the emergency room should be reserved for severe, critical medical emergencies. For example, chest pain, seizures, severe burns, or eye injuries would warrant a visit to the emergency room. 

Patients can help reduce wait times in emergency rooms and urgent care centers during the holiday season by selecting the appropriate healthcare facility to seek treatment. In addition, utilizing mobile telemedicine or urgent care services can help you access treatment faster and eliminate the need to wait hours to get help.

Skip Waiting for Urgent Care Help

Want to avoid the inevitable wait at urgent care centers during the holiday season? Mobile Care Health brings the entire urgent care office right to your home! Our mobile urgent care service covers your urgent needs on your schedule. 

With this service, you won’t need to worry about waiting hours in the urgent care waiting room. Mobile Care Health also offers weekend and evening availability, working around your urgent care needs. Contact us today to learn more about our mobile urgent care service.

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Clayton Evans

Clayton Evans is an IFA Certified Personal Trainer and IFA Certified Sports Nutritionist with over 5 years of experience in the health and fitness Industry. After years of struggling with his own health and fitness, Clayton lost over 30 lbs and started a career helping others achieve the best version of themselves. Clayton spent several years working with large corporate gyms developing fitness programs and working with Nutrition and Wellness Companies to improve a client’s overall health. His approach with clients is simple – small changes in fitness and diet that will have the largest impact and will fit into a client’s busy lifestyle.

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Brooke Young

Brooke is a skilled and compassionate Adult Nurse Practitioner with over 10 years of experience in healthcare and a passion for helping patients achieve optimal health and wellness. Brooke holds a Master of Science in Nursing with a specialization in adult health and gerontology from Maryville University of St. Louis. She completed post-graduate training in functional medicine through the Institute for Functional Medicine and obtained her NP board certification through the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Credentialing Board in 2019. As a Nurse Practitioner, Brooke seeks to address the root causes of disease and treat the whole person, rather than just the symptoms. She believes in taking a personalized and holistic approach to each patient. She has special interests in helping patients heal from metabolic syndrome, achieve their weight loss goals, optimize fertility, and recover from complex chronic illness. In her free time, Brooke enjoys hiking, reading, rollerblading, cooking healthy meals, and spending time with her fun-loving husband and spirited toddlers. She is excited to partner with you on your health journey and support you in achieving your goals.

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Jacqueline Carbone

Jacqueline Carbone is a highly experienced nurse practitioner that specializes in providing her clients with holistic, evidenced based, compassionate care. She specializes in Mental health, ketamine assisted therapy and Migraines. She is board certified from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Jacque has her post Masters certificate from University of Colorado in Psychiatric Mental Health and two master’s degrees—one in acute care/geriatric nursing and one as a clinical specialist in geriatrics—from Georgetown University. She has also completed a fellowship with Dr Arnaldo DeSilva a headache specialist. She is passionate about providing a holistic treatment plan for her clients.

Steve Ohl

Steve is a native of Colorado with bachelors in culinary nutrition. He worked as a classically trained chef, for over a decade. After chef life he shifted careers to join Mobile Care Health as our Operations Manager. Steve enjoys Crossfit, boating, road trips and camping.

Dr. Michael McGurren

Dr Michael McGurren was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. He graduated from Creighton University Medical School, and was the Chief Resident followed at Barnes-Jewish in St. Louis. He is board certified in Emergency Medicine and provides medical direction, as well as urgent care services for Mobile Care Health. In his free time he can be found sailing around the world, with a captains license and over 2500 nautical miles sailed. On shore he enjoys traveling with wife and pup Kylo in custom campervan.