The Intensive Care Unit (ICU) is a unit in the hospital where seriously ill patients are cared for by specially trained staff. The ICU staff includes doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, clinical nurse specialists, pharmacists, physical therapists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, dietitians, social workers, and chaplains.
Seriously ill patients require close observation and monitoring. Specially trained nurses care for one or two patients at a time, each shift. ICU doctors are specially trained critical care doctors.
Patients may have special equipment in their room, depending on their unique situation and condition. The equipment in the ICU may seem overwhelming. Patients are connected to machines to monitor their heart, blood pressure, and respiratory rate. Ventilators (breathing machines) assist some patients with breathing until they are able to breathe on their own.
We request that visitors be limited to two at one time for patients in the ICU. You are advised to stay inside the patient’s room during your visit. If you are asked to wait outside of the patient room, please return to the waiting area out of respect for other patient’s privacy.
Doctor’s Rounds: Doctor’s rounds usually occur during the morning, early evening, and at midnight. Due to patient privacy issues and the close proximity of our patient rooms to each other, visitors will be asked to leave the unit occasionally when doctor’s are rounding on their patients or the patients on either side of the patient they are visiting. Visiting may resume once the team is at least two doors away from the patient.
Patients are admitted to the ICU for a variety of reasons. Some patients need close monitoring immediately after a major surgical operation or serious head injury. Others may have problems with their lungs that require ventilator support with breathing. Patients may have heart and blood vessel problems (for example, very low or very high blood pressure, a heart attack, or an unstable heart rhythm) needing observation. Patients in the ICU may have an imbalance in the level of chemicals, salts, or minerals in their bloodstream that require close monitoring as these levels are corrected. Also, patients may have a serious infection in their bodies that require specialized ICU care.
You can expect that the ICU staff will keep you well-informed of any major changes in the patient’s condition or procedures that are being performed. You can expect to speak with a doctor on a regular basis. Members of the ICU team meet with the patient and/or family to ensure that everyone has a common understanding of the health condition and the plan of care. During these meetings, it is a good time for family members to ask any questions of the health care team.
It is important to understand that even though modern medicine has come a long way over the past 30 years, not all diseases can be treated or cured. Patients may be transferred to the ICU because there is a chance they may die without intensive care treatment. And sometimes, despite the use of specially trained staff and advanced technology, doctors may not be able to reverse the dying process.
Because patients in the ICU may be critically ill, they may be unable to speak on their own behalf. In this case, the doctors and nurses may ask the family what the patient would want done in the event that their heart or lungs fail. There are times when the doctors may recommend against the use of life support machines and treatments.
Some people may think that staying in the ICU for a longer period of time is better than moving to another hospital unit. However, the ICU is designed to care for only seriously ill patients. So, when a patient is improving and moving towards recovery, he/she will be transferred to the next level of care that meets his/her individual medical needs.