What to expect

Critical care can often be an overwhelming place, both for patients and their relatives. It can be helpful to know a little about what to expect. ​

Admission to Critical Care, particularly for patients whos condition is serious or life threatening, can take a long time and relatives/ visitors can feel like they have been left waiting. ​

This is because the patient will be assessed, attached to the necessary equipment/ monitoring, provided urgent medications and/ or treatments and being made comfortable. During this time, you may be asked to wait in the visitor's area and a member of staff will see you as soon as it is possible to explain what is happening. It can feel frustrating and worrying but the staff will do their best to keep you informed. ​

When visiting, the patient may be connected to various machines, most commonly a monitor and an artificial breathing machine. The machines and monitors may beep and alarm to alert staff to changes in the patient's condition however this does not necessarily mean that something is wrong. The patient may also have lines, tubes and wires attached which may be provided medication and treatments. These can be explained further by the staff at the bedside. ​

Each hospital will have a visitor's policy and visiting times may differ therefore visitors should check with the individual Critical Care Unit to arrange/ check approved times to visit. Visitors must not attend the hospital if they are unwell, particularly in Critical Care as patients are vulnerable to aquiring new infections. To help prevent the spread of infections, you will be required to wash your hand and use hand gel regularly, in some circumstances you may be asked to wear protective equipment such as aprons and masks. ​

The patient will likely look different, along with being connected to tubes and machines, they may also have some swelling and bruising. Staff will be present to reassure you and make you feel more comfortable. You can ask any questions that may help you understand. ​

With the nurse's guidance you can touch and hold your loved one. More importantly you should speak with them, even if they appear to unconsious or "sleeping" due to their condition or medication. This will help orientate them and make them feel safe. ​

It is normal to feel upset or frightening at times, you may talk to the staff as they will be able to answer any questions and offer support. ​

ICU Steps 360 perspective​