The Rise Of Urgent Care Centers In America As It Relates To Structural Engineering

Even if you’ve never stepped foot into an urgent care center by now you probably have a fairly good idea of what UCCs are all about. In recent years public awareness of such facilities has been on the rise as more and more centers appear in neighborhoods across the country. Given the influx of new urgent care centers, you may be surprised to learn that the very first facilities designed in the model we recognize today were established more than 25 years ago. Since those early days, the rate of growth in construction of such facilities has been remarkable. According to the American Hospital Association, by the Summer of 2010 there were approximately 8,700 urgent care centers in the United States.

What is an Urgent Care Center?

A Bit of Background for the Uninitiated: The Urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA) defines urgent care as “the delivery of ambulatory medical care outside of a hospital emergency department on a walk-in basis without a scheduled appointment”. For the most part, urgent care centers treat illnesses and injuries requiring immediate care, but that are not of a severity to require an emergency room visit.

Qualifying Criteria for an Urgent Care Center

The UCAOA and the American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine (AAUCM) have prescribed principles for urgent care centers and the licensed physicians that direct them. Each group’s certification/accreditation includes similar qualifying criteria:

  • Must accept walk-in patients during business hours

  • Treat a broad spectrum of illnesses and injuries, as well as perform minor medical procedures

  • Have a licensed physician operating as the medical director

  • Be open 7 days a week

  • Have on-site diagnostic equipment, including phlebotomy and x-ray

  • Contain multiple exam rooms

  • Conform to various ethical and business standards

Structural Engineering for Urgent Care Centers

From the standpoint of structural engineering design, an urgent care center is not all that different from its full-service, emergency room counterpart. In fact, urgent care centers typically include much of the same medical equipment such as x-ray and phlebotomy machines. Reinforcement of the structural design in areas that support loads from the aforementioned medical equipment is of special concern to the Structural Engineer. An average urgent care center may house lobby or waiting room space, examination rooms, administrative/office space, and dedicated areas for x-ray and similar services. Urgent care centers may range greatly in footprint and square footage depending on the particular site concerns, as well as the size of the population served.

Visit O’Donnell & Naccarato at for more information about Structural Engineering for Urgent Care Centers. O’Donnell & Naccarato provides structural engineering services throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region and beyond from office locations in Philadelphia, PA, Lehigh Valley, PA, and Union County, NJ.