beth israel deaconess medical center a harvard medical school teaching hospital

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is an intensive care unit?

An intensive care unit (ICU), sometimes called a critical care unit, is a specially designated area of the hospital where patients with serious illness or injury receive care. Care is provided by a team of specialists who monitor and treat the patient around the clock. Staff in the ICU are specially trained to use many different kinds of complex medical equipment to help monitor and treat seriously ill patients.

Are there different kinds of intensive care units?

Yes. In larger medical centers such as Beth Israel Deaconess, there are several different ICUs. Some of the terms you may hear describing the ICUs are:

  • MICU: Medical Intensive Care Unit
  • CCU: Coronary Care Unit
  • SICU: Surgical Intensive Care Unit
  • Neuro ICU: Neurosciences Intensive Care Unit
  • T/SICU: Trauma SICU
  • CVICU: Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit
  • MICU/SICU: A combined Medical/Surgical Intensive Care Unit

Why does the medical team change so often?

Each physician member of the medical team is on a rotating schedule.   Attending physicians are usually on service for 2 weeks at a time.  The residents and interns rotate through all different specialties in the hospital in order to complete their training.  Because of this the team itself is constantly changing.

May I visit the patient in intensive care?

We encourage visiting and are committed to flexibility to best meet the patient's and family's needs. We therefore do not have "visiting hours," but encourage you to visit at the times that you think are best for you and your loved one.
If the situation arises where it is better or safer for your loved one to not have visitors, your nurse will let you know and will ask you to step out for a few moments.
For security purposes all doors are locked after 8:00 p.m. except those located at the main entrance to the each campus. If you are visiting after 8:00 p.m., please check in with Security at the main entrance.

Can I stay overnight at the hospital?

We do have a limited number of sleep rooms available for family and visitors of ICU patients.  Please speak to your nurse about availability of these rooms and the how to reserve one. 

Can I bring flowers or plants to the ICU?

Unfortunately plants and flowers are not permitted in intensive care.  Critically ill patients have a lot of work to do in the healing process. Their immune systems are already working hard to fight infection and heal damaged tissue. Plants can sometimes carry insects and germs into the environment that may further stress your loved one's immune system.

Can I bring balloons to the ICU?

You can bring balloons to the hospital as long as they do not contain latex.  Many people have an allergy to latex so we recommend bringing balloons made of mylar.  All balloons sold in our gift shop are made of mylar and are safe to bring to patients in the ICU. 

Why might a patient be restrained when in the ICU?

Sometimes, illness or injury causes patients to become disoriented, confused, or agitated.  When this happens, we must be concerned about safety.  You may notice restraints on a patient's wrists, ankles, or else where.  This is to ensure that patients do not pull at necessary equipment such as IV lines or tubes or try to get out of bed when they are too ill to walk alone.  To read more about how and why restraints are used click here.   

What is the best way to communicate with extended family and friends who want updates on the patient? 

Lotsa Helping Hands
provides a free and easy way for people going through a life changing health event to create a personalized website about their loved ones care.    Lotsa Helping Hands allows you to relate your stories, post photos and update friends and family instantly.  For more information on Lotsa Helping Hands click here


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Now Recruiting - Intensive Care Unit Advisory Council

If you have had a care experience in a BIDMC Adult ICU, consider becoming an advisor and partner with us to help improve the quality of care for patients throughout our critical care units. 
Learn More

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