• Intensive Care Unit

    Intensive Care Unit

    What is an ICU?

    • A special multi-patient facility where critically ill patients or patients requiring close monitoring receive care
    • The percentage of the beds in the hospitals devoted to intensive care has increased dramatically since the end of the 20th century
    • These units have the latest monitors and other devices to measure and support patient blood pressure, oxygenation, heart, lung and kidney function, etc.
    • The ratio of nurses to patients approaches 1:1
    • There is usually an attending or resident physician onsite at all times.
    • Specialized intensive care units exist for medical, surgical and pediatric patients.
    • Visiting hours are strictly limited but special lounges for families are usually provided.


    Whether you are the patient or a family member, being admitted to an intensive care unit is a stressful event. Focus instead on the fact that in the intensive care unit you or your loved one will receive the “round the clock” care that the doctor has determined is required.

    Over the last few decades the numbers of intensive care units in hospitals have expanded as they have become more and more specialized. Some of the most common ones are the Coronary Care Unit (CCU), Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU), Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PedICU), Pulmonary Intensive Care Unit (PICU), Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU), Burn Unit and the Step Down Unit (SDU).

    An intensive care unit is comprised of the most up-to-date in equipment and highly trained staff members. The nurses in these units have fewer patients than they would on a hospital floor (often a 1:1 ratio) and there is a doctor present usually at all times. The nurses are qualified to recognize an emergency, respond appropriately and work as a team with the ICU doctor.

    Being sent to an intensive care unit does not mean that you or your loved one is truly in danger but rather that the person needs to have close care. In some cases it is the routine stop after a surgical procedure such as many heart procedures. Some common reasons for admission include heart attack, severe burns, severe trauma, low blood pressure, sepsis, stroke, trauma, respiratory distress and abnormal heart rhythms.

    ICU Schedule

    There really is no day and night in the ICU and the routine may not change much whether the sun is rising or setting. Between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. you will be visited by a slew of doctors that may seem to be speaking in a foreign tongue. You will be surprised to learn later on that they were actually talking about you. They will be discussing how you did during the night and what changes, if any, they want to make in your care over the next few hours. You will see some of the same doctors once again that afternoon and again that evening. They will be reviewing the results of your tests and trends in your vital signs and continually adjusting your care as needed.

    Visitors in the ICU

    Visiting hours in the intensive care unit are always shorter than in the other departments in the hospital. Visitors are usually discouraged from staying more than 15 minutes: the staff has to work and the patients need their rest.

    Extended Time in the ICU

    If you or your loved one require an extended stay in an intensive care unit, you may see a change in personality. It is very difficult to get any sleep in a unit with basically no downtime and lights on 24 hours a day. In addition, you don’t feel well or may be in pain, your are frightened, attached to a multitude of machines, on an awful schedule, and basically a prisoner in a medical cell. The result is that not only are you groggy, but you become forgetful and even nasty. This is not something that you or your family should take personally as it is a common occurrence in the intensive care unit. Who wouldn’t be grouchy?

    Common Monitors to See in the Intensive Care Unit


    This monitor watches the heart rate and rhythm.

    Pulse Oximeter

    The Pulse Oximeter measures the amount of oxygen in the blood.

    Blood Pressure Monitor

    The blood pressure monitor measures and records the blood pressure.


    The Transducer shows how much pressure is in a line.

    RR Monitor

    This measures the respirator rate, which is how many breaths per minute the patient takes in.

    Things that I May Have Attached to Me

    When in the intensive care unit you may have many lines attached to you. Some of the most common ones include the IV, Radial Line, Venous Line, Arterial Line, Foley Catheter, Chest Tube, Surgical Drain, Nasogastric Tube, and Endotracheal Tube.

    Leave a reply →

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.