My Foot Hurts. Is that Urgent?

I have a pain in my right foot. I have had it for almost two weeks. It hasn’t gotten worse, but it doesn’t go away. I don’t remember having hurt myself. I can find any growth or bump, but I am not ideally situated to view the soles of my feet. I don’t know what to do.

Why am I telling you about my foot? Because I don’t know who else to tell. On the television shows I grew up with—and on
Doc Martin today—everyone would know what to do. All you need to do is drop by your GP’s office, wait for fifteen minutes while having a cup of coffee, slipping through Look magazine, and chatting with your neighbors while wondering what’s wrong with them.

The trouble is that I don’t have a GP. I have a “primary care physician,” but he is an Internist, certified in specialties and sub-specialties, and no one drops in on him. Even getting to see the nurse practitioner in his office is a bit of a production. If I can’t wait for my scheduled appointments, I’m not likely to even try to see him or his colleagues.

So what do I do? Go to the Emergency Room? I know a lot of people do that, and I have gone only when I felt truly awful (awful enough to be hospitalized, it turned out). I just don’t want to be the sort of man who thinks it’s an emergency when his foot hurts.

If not the Emergency Room, how about an Urgent Care Center? To me URGENT sounds just as dire as EMERGENCY, and I just can’t see a pain that hasn’t even driven me to uncap the aspirin bottle as urgent. I might be less reluctant to go if they dropped the grandiloquent name and just called the place what the doctors themselves call it, the “Doc-in-a-Box.” That name fits the whole ambience of the establishment. When I last went to one, for a horrible backache, I found myself getting my Vicodin from a vending machine. I bought a Coke from another machine to wash down the first dose. Next time I expect them to ask me if I want a side of fries when they take my insurance card.

I understand that in other countries they preserve the local doctor who looks at non-urgent feet and other pre-emergent conditions. I understand that they also have physicians who make house-calls and do other archaic things American medicine has abandoned. I hear they have to wait to see specialists, but I have to wait for weeks to see any physician unless I go to the Emergency Room or the Doc-in-a-Box.

I will not offer any opinion on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). I know it will not do the horrible things some people claim it will. The trouble is that I don’t have any reason to think that it will provide an answer to my simple question: When it’s not urgent and definitely is not an emergency, where do I go when my foot hurts?