What is Intensive Care?
Intensive Care is located on Level 4 in the Orange Zone
Intensive care units (ICU), also called critical care departments, look after patients whose conditions are life-threatening and need constant, close monitoring and support from equipment and medication to keep normal body functions going. Intensive care units in the United Kingdom are run and staffed by specialists trained in intensive care. They have higher levels of staffing, specialist monitoring and treatment equipment only available in these areas and the staff are highly trained in caring for the most severely ill patients. Senior staff are closely involved in the hour by hour management of patients by the bedside and all staff are especially trained to care for the most unwell patients.
Some patients are in an ICU for shorter periods of time than others, depending on the extent of their illness or injury. As patients get better they are transferred to a general ward somewhere else in the hospital.
Once a patient is admitted to the unit the intensive care team will manage the care of the patient in consultation with the original team that admitted the patient to the hospital and any other specialists that they think can help to aid the patient's recovery. The intensive care doctors and nurses will give the best overview and general update on the patient, but they may sometimes refer relatives to the specialist teams for discussion of certain aspects of care.
Admission to critical care it is a time of great stress and worry for all. All the staff are well aware of this and will do their best to help and explain. At times the unit may be very busy and you should expect a high level of activity round the clock. Noise levels are likely to be higher than on a general hospital ward largely because of the operation of the equipment, often beeping or sounding an alarm. If you do hear an alarm it doesn't necessarily mean something's wrong, just that there's something the staff need to be aware of.
Once a patient has recovered and is well enough to be transferred to the ward their care will be handed over to the ward team. Our Outreach Intensive care team may continue to visit patients on the ward and we also have an internationally recognised Rehabilitation service for specific patients who have had long stays and been severely unwell.
Infection control is very important in intensive care as patients who are very unwell are very susceptible to infection, and staff and visitors are required to comply with local hygiene policies.
The above text has been adapted from the Intensive Care Society (UK) website that has further information for patients and relatives: http://www.ics.ac.uk/patrel/patrel.asp