Many hospitals have an intensive care unit (ICU) within their facility. This is a section of the hospital that requires focus and resilience from the various doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. They provide high-quality specialty care for patients with serious conditions and illnesses. Individuals may be admitted to the ICU for numerous reasons, such as after a serious accident or major surgery. Some people may feel a sense of intimidation when admitted due to the large quantity of monitoring equipment, wires, and tubes. Creating an advanced care plan could be valuable for immediate family and the ICU staff.
What is an ICU?
The ICU is the division of the hospital that provides care for patients with life-threatening conditions like serious injuries, accidents, or illnesses. Individuals receive 24/7 monitoring and life support, if necessary, from highly skilled specialists. There is an array of high-quality equipment, including a patient monitor, ventilator, defibrillator, CPAP & BiPAP system, infusion pump, and syringe pump.
Why do individuals get admitted into the ICU?
Someone may be admitted to the ICU because they need critical medical support. Some patients may be admitted for a failing organ system or a terminal/chronic illness. Others may be admitted following a major surgery, car accident or intense burn, or when a serious infection arises (like sepsis or pneumonia).
What happens in an ICU?
An ICU provides 24-hour care for individuals with life-threatening conditions. The ICU can be unnerving for admitted patients and their family or friends. Often, this nervousness is caused by the life support machines—the many wires, tubes, lines, and loud monitoring equipment in the ICU. Much of the time, patients will be connected to a large variety of machines, such as a vitals monitor, so staff can pay close attention to them. They may be attached to a ventilator if they have trouble with breathing.
Most ICU machines make loud sounds to alert the medical professionals when changes occur in a patient’s condition. Sometimes patients will need several tubes to have fluids removed or for nutrition administration.
Who will you see in the ICU?
The ICU has doctors, specialty nurses, speech therapists, dieticians, and physiotherapists.
- Nurses. Typically, one specialty nurse will actively monitor one or two patients at most. They are responsible for the majority of the care that a person will need in the ICU. These nurses also spend a lot of time with the patients in the early stages of their conditions. Nurses work with doctors and other medical professionals to give the best quality care possible. Nurses perform many tasks, which includes taking regular blood tests or adjusting treatment based on test results.
- Doctors. The ICU will typically have a consultant who will lead a team of doctors. They visit each patient and make decisions regarding their treatment. They spend time examining patients thoroughly and pay close attention to any wounds.
- Dieticians. The dietician will provide the medical staff with important advice to manage the nutritional needs of critically ill patients. They will also determine if a patient needs to be fed through a nasogastric tube or through a drip if needed.
- Physiotherapists. Patients will be seen by a physiotherapist. They are responsible for making sure the patient’s lungs are clear. They also exercise the patients so their joints won’t get stiff. Patients will also be given exercises to help strengthen their lungs and breathing muscles.
- Speech therapists. Speech therapists will see patients who have had a tracheostomy to help them breathe. They also monitor patients to see when they can drink and eat normally again.
How do you prepare for the ICU?
In some cases, ICU admission happens unexpectedly and is hard to prepare for. However, some individuals know they will have to go. If you or a loved one anticipate an ICU stay, it is a good idea to create an advanced care plan. This can be useful for ICU staff and family members of the patient. The plan includes the person’s decisions regarding treatment, if they are unable to speak or their condition worsens.
Care after the ICU
Once the patient is discharged from the hospital, they will need a proper plan in place to ensure optimal recovery. A great care plan will allow the patient to recover safely and comfortably, while reducing the risk of avoidable hospital readmission.
NurseRegistry can help you or a loved one recover after a hospital stay. We have California’s top nurses licensed in a variety of specialties. Our full range of services includes wound care, post-hospital care, airway management, and more.
Our nurses can provide high-quality care in the comfort of home for people of all ages. If you are being transferred to a nursing facility where you would like additional support, our nurses can provide supplemental care.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule services, call us at 650-462-1001.
ANZICS is an organization that offers advice and resources for patients who are going to be admitted into the ICU.
The Society of Critical Care Medicine offers guidelines, assistance, and grants to help patients and their families.
AICU consists of a group of doctors, former patients, and other healthcare professionals. They work together to provide ICU patients, families, and medical professionals with information on the road to recovery after a critical illness.