The intensive care unit (ICU) of a hospital is usually where patients are seriously ill or those who require specialized care, are admitted. ICU cares for people who have life-threatening conditions, such as a serious injury or illness, where they receive around-the-clock monitoring and life support. This level of care is provided by specially trained physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, and other allied health professionals who use their expertise to provide intensive treatment and monitoring to the sickest patients. What to Expect When a Loved One Is in the Intensive Care Unit
Normally, The patient only stays in the ICU for a short period of time, until their condition becomes stable enough, they will be transferred into the regular hospital ward. In that time, you may want to know what to expect while your loved one is receiving caring in the ICU.
Types of Intensive Care Units
The ICU is one of the most critically functioning operational environments in a hospital, where patients receive close medical monitoring and care. Specialized ICUs are provided for certain types of patients
- Neonatal ICU: This specialty unit cares for neonatal patients who have not left the hospital after birth.
- Pediatric (PICU): Patients who may voluntarily harm themselves are delivered here so they can be monitored more vigorously.
- Neurological ICU Specialized care for neurologically unstable patients
- Cardiac care unit (CCU): for patients who have serious or unstable heart problems
- Surgical ICU (SICU): for patients who already had a surgery in in recovering state
Why Do Some People Need to Be Admitted?
There are several circumstances where a person may be admitted to an ICU. These include after surgery, or following an accident or severe illness.
ICU beds are a very expensive and limited resource because they provide:
- specialized monitoring equipment
- a high degree of medical expertise
- constant access to highly trained nurses (usually one nurse for each bed)
Some ICUs are attached to areas that treat specific conditions. Others specialise in the care of certain groups of people. For example, an ICU can specialise in:
- nervous disorders
- heart conditions
- babies (neonatal intensive care, NIC) – for example, for babies born with serious conditions, such as heart problems , or if there is a complication during birth
- children (paediatric intensive care, PIC) – for children under 16 years of age
What happens in the ICU?
ICU can be daunting to both the person being admitted and their visitors due to the lines, tubes, wires and monitoring equipment.
ICU patients can be connected to a wide range of machines, the most common being a heart monitor and artificial ventilators (when patients can’t breathe for themselves). Many ICU machines beep and make loud noises and alarms to let staff know if a patient’s condition changes.
There are also likely to be several tubes either putting fluid and nutrients into the patient or taking other fluids out.
There are many medical staff in ICU. Each patient usually has a dedicated specialist nurse, who regularly checks the equipment and any life support systems.
The ICU healthcare team understands how distressing ICU can be and is available to support immediate family.
Restrictions for Visitors
Visiting hours in an ICU are usually flexible, but there are more restrictions for visitors. The number of people allowed around a bed will usually be limited for the safety of the patient.
In ICUs, high levels of hygiene must always be maintained, so you will be asked to use an alcohol hand rub before entering the unit and before you leave. Dispensers can usually be found at the entrance of the ICU and by every bed space.
You can bring in things to make the person more comfortable, but it will be checked by the ICU staff beforehand. Flowers are not usually allowed in an ICU because there is a risk they could spread infection.
When Will Your Loved One Get Discharged?
People who have been in the intensive care unit are usually discharged to a general ward when doctors consider that they no longer need such close observation. People are discharged from the ICU when they are strong enough to look after themselves or be looked after at home. Their condition becomes stable enough to finishing caring in the ICU. People admitted to ICU because of planned surgery often spend only a few days in ICU and on a ward, and then leave. People admitted to intensive care as emergencies tend to spend longer in hospital. They may be very weak when they go home but no longer need specialist care. Some of them go to a rehabilitation unit after the general ward; others go home directly
Before your loved one will leave the ICU, medical staff will have discussion with them and relatives to make a discharge plan for patient. Each hospital follows guidelines and will discharge patients only when doctors feel patients are well enough to manage at home with the help of caregivers or by themselves. Most people need to be well enough to walk and climb stairs before they can go home. Physiotherapists and other medical staff check and ensure that a patient can do these before discharge.