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UHNM Critical Care

Patient Diaries


Getting here

This website is designed to give you practical support and information to help patients and their family throughout their stay in the Critical Care Unit as well as during their recovery and rehabilitation from critical illness.

Critical Care is also sometimes referred to as the Intensive Care Unit [ICU] or the High Dependency Unit [HDU]. HDU care is for patients who require less monitoring or treatment than ICU patients. Our Critical Care is staffed and equipped to provide quality care to adults who are seriously ill, who have experienced a major traumatic injuries or who have required major surgery. Typically, nurses in Critical Care look after either one or two patients each.

Hospitals and their procedures are unfamiliar to most of us and you may be feeling shocked and confused at this time.

This is a general guide to our Critical Care its set-up, routines, procedures and treatments. Please do not be afraid to ask staff questions to supplement this information. We will be happy to help you.

Our aim is to provide the best possible care to all our patients, their relatives and visitors. The needs of the patients and their families are respected and met wherever possible. The care given takes account of religious beliefs and cultural differences

A patient whose condition is extremely serious, possibly life threatening is often brought to the Critical Care Unit. Critical Care Units provide high levels of medical and nursing care with doctors and nurses constantly on hand. There are more nurses for each patient than on an ordinary ward.

When first admitted to Critical Care, the doctors and nurses will be very busy treating the patient and this can sometimes take several hours. Time can pass very slowly when you are waiting for news, and you may be asked to wait on the reception waiting area, but we will try to keep you informed of any changes in their condition during this time.

As soon as possible, a doctor or nurse will discuss the patient's illness, treatment and plans of care with you. You will be able to see the patient at the earliest opportunity. If you feel you have been waiting for a long time please approach any member of staff.

As well as specialist critical care nurses, doctors and consultants you will also see other professionals helping to care for the patient in Critical Care, such as the physiotherapist, dietician, pharmacist, speech and language therapist [SALT], occupational therapist, other specialist nurses and clinical psychologists.

The length of time patients stay in a Critical Care Area depends on the extent of their illness or injuries and any further complications. Some patients will recover quite quickly while others may remain in the unit for weeks or even months. Sometimes, a patient's condition can fluctuate - for example they may develop an infection. Recovery is not possible in all cases and sometimes a patient dies. 

All patients' needs vary and thus there is no typical day. Mornings tend to be the busiest times. A ward round is held from approximately 8:00am – 12:00pm where the doctors and nurses discuss the patients' progress and care, examine the patients, decide on further treatment and make a plan for the rest of the day. This ward round includes input from other specialist consultants, including microbiologists who specifically deal with advice concerning infections. There is also an evening ward round from approximately 5:00pm – 7:00pm.

Noise levels in a Critical Care Area
It can be quite noisy in the Critical Care Area, especially during the day. There may be bleeping noises coming from some of the equipment and even an occasional alarm sound. This is normal and does not necessarily mean that something is wrong.

Will I recognise my loved one?
Your loved one may look very different from the last time you saw them. Their clothes will have been removed but they will be covered. Their bodies may be bruised and swollen. They may be attached to a lot of equipment. The doctors and nurses will tell you what to expect. 

Can I touch my loved one?
Critical Care patients are often surrounded by tubes and wires. However, it is usually possible to touch your loved one. The nurse will guide you. You may feel you would like to participate in some of the care your loved one needs, for example: combing their hair, cleaning their eyes and mouth or washing their face. Please mention this to the nurse and she/he will help you carry out these tasks. If you are involved in helping care for your relative you must wash your hands and wear an apron.

Can I talk to my loved one?
For patients to tolerate their treatment it is often necessary to give them sedation and pain relief which causes them to be drowsy.

However, a patient may be able to hear even if they cannot respond. Staff will talk to patients and tell them what is happening. Feel free to talk to your loved one and let them know that you are there.

Why are the curtains around the bedspace?
Your visit might be interrupted by a treatment or examination and the nurse or doctor will ask you to leave the bedside and wait in the relatives' waiting area. Please be aware treatments and examinations may [and usually do] take longer than expected; if you feel you have been waiting a long time please ask the staff at reception.

When visiting your relative please do not be alarmed if the curtains are around the bed space – your relative will be receiving a treatment, which requires privacy. Please let a member of staff know who you are visiting and they will help you.

Patients' property

We have very limited space in the unit for storing property and therefore we ask that the patients only have essential toiletries and cards. Photographs to display of family and friends are also welcome. 

Money and other valuable items e.g. jewellery, need to be taken home or alternatively staff will send them to the hospital cashier for safe keeping. 

Long stay patients can use personal audio equipment. We do have televisions and radios available in the unit.