WCCHS provides comprehensive and continuous care for persons who are critically ill in our Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Our ICU staff cares for patients and provides support for families in time of need. Patients may be admitted to the ICU from the Emergency Department, Surgical Services, or other hospital areas, if their condition warrants.
Visiting hours for the ICU are between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. and at the discretion of the nursing staff. Prior to entering the unit, families must call into the ICU by using the phone in the ICU waiting room. Children are not allowed to visit. Visiting patients in ICU is dependent upon individual patient needs and acuity of the unit at the time.
The ICU team consists of Physicians, Nurses, Medical/Surgical Aides, Respiratory Therapists, Physical Therapists, Nutritionists, Pharmacists, and Social Workers. Pastoral Care through our Spiritual Life office also is available. Our Staff use their unique expertise and ability to interpret important therapeutic information and highly sophisticated equipment to provide care that leads to the best outcomes for the patient. Typical examples of illnesses treated in the ICU are heart attack, angina, heart failure (CHF), pneumonias, respiratory failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), abnormal heart rhythms, drug overdose, stroke, sepsis, or surgical complications. ICU patients are often monitored by several pieces of equipment in order to provide valuable information to their medical team:
Intensive Care Unit Manager - Denise Prusak, RN
- Physicians: in most cases your family physician will be caring for you while you are hospitalized. If you do not have a local physician one will be assigned to your care while you are in the hospital.
- Nurses: ICU nurses have specialized training in caring for critically ill patients and provide around- the-clock bedside care and monitoring. Their expertise and continuous presence allows early recognition of subtle but significant changes in patient conditions, thereby preventing worsening conditions and minimizing complications that may arise. The bedside nurse has the great responsibility of coordinating all the care provided to ICU patients.
- Medical/Surgical Aides: staff that are trained to obtain and record vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, and temperature. They also assist the nursing staff with your personal care needs.
- Respiratory Therapists: clinical staff that monitor patients’ respiratory status and may use equipment such as nebulizers or inhalers to administer breathing medications. Respiratory Therapists also assist the nursing staff in the care and use of ventilators.
- Physical Therapists: clinical staff who help maintain patients’ flexibility and muscle strength to prevent disability and speed recovery.
- Pharmacists: evaluate all drug therapy given to patients to foster effective and safe medication therapy. They also assist with preparation of parental nutrition for patients who cannot eat on their own.
- Registered Dietician: works to improve the nutritional health of patients and to promote recovery of the critically ill patient.
- Social Worker/Discharge Planning: help patients and families deal with various aspects of critical illness, including psychological and financial issues, and discharge plans after hospitalization.
- Radiology staff: ancillary staff trained to obtain x-rays, ultrasound tests, CT scans, etc.
- Laboratory staff: ancillary staff trained to obtain blood or other body fluid samples for laboratory studies.
Commonly Used Equipment
- Monitors: measure body functions such as breathing, heart rate, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, etc. Monitors have alarms that alert the ICU staff when such functions are outside normal limits.
- Catheters: tubes that are inserted to infuse or drain fluids.
- Intravenous Catheters: inserted in a patient’s vein to dispense medications, fluids, and nutrition as needed.
- Nasograstric (NG) Tube: may be inserted through the nose into the stomach to drain fluids or air or to give mediations or nutrition if patient is unable to do so by mouth.
- Urinary Catheter: used to drain urine from the bladder.
- Arterial Line Catheter: inserted into a patient’s artery to monitor blood pressure or obtain blood samples as needed.
- Mechanical Ventilators (also called respirators): machines that help patients breathe through a tube that is inserted through the moth or nose into the trachea (windpipe) and is connected to the ventilator. The patient is unable to speak while the tube is in place but will be able to communicate with you by writing or with hand gestures. When communicating with a patient on a ventilator it is best to use yes or no questions.
Family Member Information
As a loved one of a patient, you may experience feelings of helplessness or loss of control when a loved one is in the ICU. This is completely normal. Remember that you as important to the healing process as the ICU team. We recommend the following:
- Proper food and sleep will enhance your ability to listen and understand the information given to you about your loved one.
- Exercise is important to maintaining emotional health. Whenever possible, get up and walk around.
- Do not feel you have to be available every moment. Patients are closely monitored.
- Gather support from family and friends. If friends or family come to visit, take the opportunity for a little time to refresh yourself. It is important to structure some time away from the hospital by asking a friend or family member to stay for a few hours. Remember that the time in the ICU may be the beginning of a longer recovery where your strength will be needed as well.
- Identify a family spokesperson. The role of this person will be to contact all the friends and relatives with an update on the patient’s condition.
- Support at home – make sure you delegate someone to pick up the mail or newspaper. If someone offers to cook for you, let them. Make sure your child care or pet care is in order.
- Prepare yourself daily for setback. Some days are good, some are bad. Try not to become discouraged.
- Purchase a notebook to record the names of the staff caring for your loved one. Write down phone numbers of people you may need or want to contact so they are easily accessible. Write down any questions that you may have for the doctors or nursing staff that may pop into your head so you won’t forget them. Start a journal. Many people find it comforting to write down their thoughts as they deal with a stressful situation.
- Be positive. Keep your faith and your hope strong; making sure that everyone is encouraging and hopeful while with your loved one. Talk to your loved one and tell them what is going on. Read cards that have been sent.
- Rest assured that our staff and our facility will do everything in our power to help you and your loved ones navigate successfully through this journey.
Source: 12/09 Society of Critical Care Medicine, www.surgeryencyclopedia.com, www.jama.com.