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Understanding Urgent Care at MIT

Did you know that MIT Medical offers a walk in Urgent Care service?

Located on the first floor of Building E23, Urgent Care accepts patients from 7AM-11PM every day, with 24 hour assistance by phone after hours.

Jan Puibello, Nurse Coordinator of Urgent Care at MIT Medical, joins us today to talk a little bit about how the Urgent Care Service can support you.
Understanding Urgent Care at MIT
Featured Speaker:
Jan Puibello
Jan Puibello is a Family Nurse Practitioner who has been working at MIT Urgent Care for 15 years.  She enjoys working with all patients, but especially likes working with the college population, helping students as they grow and mature during their time at MIT. Her hobbies include bird watching, biking, traveling, and fly fishing.

Melanie Cole (Host): Did you know that MIT Medical offers a walk-in urgent care service located on the first floor of Building E23? Urgent care accepts patients from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. every day with 24-hour assistance by phone after hours. My guest today is Jan Puibello. She’s the nurse coordinator of Urgent Care at MIT Medical. Welcome to the show, Jan. So tell us, what services does Urgent Care provide?

Jan Puibello (Guest): Hi Melanie, and thanks for the nice introduction. Urgent Care provides urgent services to the MIT community, and what that means is that it’s a walk-in service that takes care of people maybe when they’re sick or have not yet become established in care here at MIT Medical. We take care of students. We take care of employees, patients who have the MIT Traditional or Choice, most anyone who’s affiliated with MIT. We also take care of retirees when they’re ill and can’t get in to see their primary care providers, which is also true of Traditional Health Plan members. So we see a wide variety of patients.

Melanie: When should someone come to Urgent Care, Jan? What would prompt to say, “Okay, I really need to see somebody now”?

Puibello: Well, certainly when somebody is sick with something such as abdominal pain, high fevers, nausea, vomiting, somebody has had an orthopedic injury such as a possible knee injury or a finger injury or fell and hurt themselves. A woman might have symptoms of urinary tract infection, somebody who might be dehydrated, someone who might be having chest pain or palpitations, things that really need to be seen right away. And that’s when they should come. We are open from 7 in the morning until 11 at night seven days a week, 365 days a year, and if someone is not sure if they should come here, we can always take a phone call. A lot of times, people aren’t sure, they might live far away, should they go to a local ER or should they come here. They can call here and ask to talk to one of our nurses or nurse practitioners to find out if this is the right place for them to come.

Melanie: And what’s the phone number, Jan?

Puibello: The phone number is 617-253-4481. It’s the main number for MIT Medical and it also will get you to Urgent Care.

Melanie: And we would just like to point out that they should call first no matter what they’re going through. If they’ve hurt themselves or they have abdominal pains, please remember to call 617-253-4481 and ask for Urgent Care. That’s the best way to find out. Now, generally, how long is the wait? If people make this phone call, they let you know that they’re coming. What can they expect when they get there?

Puibello: Well, what’s really good about them calling is that we then are ready for them and we know why they’re coming in. And if it’s certainly something that is urgent—let’s imagine that somebody fell and they might have a sprained ankle or something where you can’t even bear weight or they have a laceration, for example—we will expect them and we will prioritize them going to the front of the line. And that’s the thing about the wait. We cannot predict the wait here because we’re a walk-in service and we see the sickest patients first. Otherwise, the patients are seen in chronological order from when they come in. So, if we have a lot of patients here who have basically colds and coughs, things that are not that urgent, and then we have a patient that comes in with a laceration or a possible fracture or somebody with chest patient, those other patients are going to be seen first. Now, in general, the best times to come in are between 7 and 11 in the morning. It is generally before our student population comes in, so there’s less of a wait here. And the other time that has less of wait time is generally between 6 and 10. Now, that’s not true 100 percent of the time, of course, but it depends on the day. But those are times when we’ve done our time studies that show that that is the less of a wait time.

Melanie: Now, what happens, Jan, if they need to be seen after hours? What do they do?

Puibello: So when you refer to after hours, I think of that as when of the rest of the department is closed and we are the only ones open. So, they come in here to Urgent Care, just like they would any other time. They come in. They tell the secretary why they’re here. They sign in, and then the provider on duty will see them in order of coming in.

Melanie: What if it’s after 11:00 p.m. at night?

Puibello: Right. If it’s after 11 o’clock at night, our front doors are locked, and at that point, they should not come here. They should call the main number, which is the number I gave you earlier, and they will be directed to a nursing service that is very experienced in triaging phone calls. And they can give patients the advice that’s needed based on the symptoms. So, they can give self-care at home or if somebody’s having symptoms of something acute, will be advised to go to the hospital.

Melanie: Now, when do they go to the hospital? When do they know that they should either wait before coming in and when they should just go to the hospital straight away?

Puibello: Well, that’s a really good question and it depends on the series of the patient’s symptoms. So this is why] we strongly advise patients to call here first. We will help -- either we or the nursing service that’s, again, outside of this department—the department itself is closed after 11 o’clock—but the nursing service will go over the patient’s symptoms and give them the advice that’s needed, whether they can wail until the morning or go to the nearest hospital.

Melanie: And what about kids, Jan? How does Urgent Care work for pediatrics? And we would like to re-stress the point of calling first 617-253-4481, especially if you’re calling about your children. But tell us, how does Urgent Care work for pediatrics?

Puibello: Sure. Well, we have family nurse practitioners on duty most days until 6:00 p.m. That’s Monday through Friday. And now, those nurse practitioners can see pediatric patients. During regular working hours, of course, the pediatric department is open, and the patient should call there directly. The family should call there directly if they have a question. Pediatric coverage, we do not have on-site pediatric coverage after 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and those patients are directed to call the pediatric department, which had been then referred to the pediatric nursing on-call service, which will then take the calls and appropriate triage. On the weekends, there is a family nurse practitioner on duty from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. That is the only hours that someone in house that can see these children. So that’s why calling first is always a good idea.

Melanie: And Jan, reiterate some tips for common symptoms that people might experience that would lend them to call you at Urgent Care or not call you when you say, “Well, you know, if you’ve just got the sniffles, maybe you don’t need to call us. But if it’s worked itself up into a cough, we want to hear from you.”

Puibello: Common symptoms that often—particularly students who maybe don’t really know all the steps in self-care—but the calls that we might get are I’m nauseous or I don’t know what kind of fluid to drink, I don’t feel well, I have a stomach ache, I have diarrhea. We can help them, give advice that they might be able to try some things in the meantime before coming all the way over here. Because when someone is sick, they don’t necessarily want to hike all across campus to come here. However, there are some steps that we can help them with before coming in. And we then can give them some advice. If X, Y, or Z happens, then definitely come in. The other thing is we have a really excellent website with lots of self-care modules, pages on them and what to do if you have a sore throat or what to do if you have a cold or what to do if you have diarrhea, what to do if you have various illnesses that really could benefit from doing things at home. So, certainly, calling us is encouraged, but also looking at the website. That’s the MIT website that, again, has a lot of resources. It’s really another step that people can do.

Melanie: And Jan, in just the last minute here, if you would please just give the listeners the best reasons for them to use Urgent Care at MIT Medical.

Puibello: Well, the best reasons to use us certainly is that we are available. The providers who work here really like doing this kind of work. So we want to help people feel better, and we’d like to help them feel better quickly. And we are a walk-in service, so we’re very, very accessible. And it’s really terrific for students or for people who work here to come here, because many times, if it’s an employee, it’s difficult for them to leave work when they’re sick and then make an appointment to see their primary care provider when they can come here. For the students trying to fit things in when they’re sick, trying fit things in between their classes can really be a challenge. And again, we enjoy seeing students here a lot and we want to help them get through their illnesses. And also, if they can call too and see what we can do to help them before they hike all the way over here.

Melanie: Thank you so much, Jan Puibello. The phone number to call before you go to Urgent Care is 617-253-4481. They are open 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. every day with 24-hour assistance by phone after hours located on the first floor of Building E23. Urgent Care accepts patients. This is Melanie Cole, and you’re listening to Conversations with MIT Medical. For more information, you can go to That’s This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for listening.