What Is Intensive Care?

Healthcare provider caring for intubated man in intensive care unit bed.

Your loved one has been admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU). The ICU provides special care from a team of experts.

The intensive care unit (ICU)

The intensive care unit (ICU) is also sometimes called the critical care unit. Here people get constant care and are closely watched. Some hospitals may have more than one type of ICU. These may include a medical, surgical, cardiac, neurological, neonatal, or pediatric ICU. A person may stay in the ICU a day, a week, or longer.

A team effort

The people caring for your loved one work as a team. But each one has special knowledge and skills. Healthcare providers plan your loved one’s care. Nurses do most of the hands-on care and monitoring. Others who may be on the healthcare team are listed below:

  • Respiratory therapists help with breathing problems.

  • Physical therapists help improve strength and flexibility.

  • Occupational therapists work with people in the ICU to reduce stress and to help them cope with being immobile and on a respirator.

  • Dietitians give advice about special eating concerns and nutrition.

  • Social workers and case managers help the family with financial concerns, resources, and insurance.

  • Clergy, such as a priest, minister, imam, or rabbi, offer spiritual support to patients and family.

  • Other support staff help with tasks such as drawing blood, taking X-rays, moving people, or serving meals.