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Intensive Care

Why are some patients admitted to Intensive Care with COVID-19?

COVID-19 can cause respiratory or breathing difficulties. Some patients will need specialist support with their breathing e.g. using a tight-fitting face mask (called CPAP) or a ventilator (breathing machine or life support machine). The virus affects many other organs, however, and some patients will need support with their blood pressure (with drugs or specialist equipment) or their kidneys (with a kidney machine). Some patients will be admitted to Intensive Care as a precaution, as we know that some patients can deteriorate quite quickly. The Intensive Care Unit is the safest place to look after these patients, as it has high numbers of highly skilled and staff who are very experienced in the use of specialist support. 

Visits from family members may not be allowed at this time

This is to protect family members from picking up COVID-19. We know that this will be very upsetting to patients and families.The staff will work very hard to make sure that families are kept up to date by phone. Many Intensive Care Units are using online or "virtual" visiting, which means that family members can see their loved ones, using mobile phones or tablets, and speak to them if they are awake. In this section, we’ve provided some general information on common equipment and treatments, including how and why they’re used. We’ve also provided some information on routine care, the staff who work in Intensive Care and the sorts of things they will have done to help you or your family member.


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Article: Getting to know you as a person

Getting to know patients and families as individuals is a huge part of what we do in Intensive Care. We know that this can greatly improve your experience of Intensive Care and can aid your recovery, by helping you to be more involved with, and feel more positive about your recovery. Finding out more about you can be difficult, whilst family members are not allowed to visit the Unit. Some Units have set up family liaison teams to help us do that. They or other staff may have called your...

Web Link: Hallucinations in the ICU:a short video from former patients

This is a link to a short video in which 2 former patients talk about their strange memories of the ICU. Borrowed, with grateful thanks, from the INSPIRE (ICU) research team in NHS Glasgow & Greater Clyde.

Article: Handover

The nurse will usually start the shift by hearing about the patient's progress since they came into Intensive Care and over the previous shift (handover). She or he will usually carry out a full assessment of the patient by checking their charts (including things like vital signs, blood results and medications), checking that all equipment is working as it should and carrying out a full body assessment (eg checking the patient's skin, including any wounds and dressings and...

Web Link: Healthtalkonline - families' experiences of Intensive Care

This link will take you to the Healthtalk.org website. You can hear about other family members' and close friends' experiences of having a loved one in Intensive Care. There are short videos, voice recordings and written interviews, which we hope you find useful.

Article: Heart monitor (ECG)

What does the heart monitor or ECG do? Heart or ECG (electrocardiography) monitors show the electrical activity of the heart. It is monitored using electrodes or “sticky dots” on the chest. Heart or ECG monitoring tells us about the heart rate and heart rhythm (both of which can sometimes be abnormal and require treatment). What is a "12 lead ECG"? In some cases (e.g. if a patient has an irregular heart rhythm or we are worried that they may be...

Article: How can I find out more about what happened to me in Intensive Care?

How can I find out more about what happened in Intensive Care? It depends on the type and level of information you’re looking for. Some people would rather put their illness behind them, others are comfortable with a basic understanding, and some prefer to have a detailed medical explanation. It’s completely up to you. You may find that the type of information you would like changes over time. Here are some things you can do that might help. Ask your family and...

Article: How can I make sense of the strange dreams and nightmares I had?

Article length: 3 minutes (Read now or tap the button above to add this resource to your personal library to read later) It's very common to have very unpleasant or frightening dreams. Others have very pleasant, entertaining dreams, and some people seem to have a mixture of frightening and pleasant dreams. Others still remember very little or even nothing of their time in Intensive Care. The dreams that patients have (no matter how “crazy”) can seem so real, can be...

Article: How long will I have these dreams and nightmares?

From what other people have told us, it seems that these memories, dreams and nightmares either gradually fade with time or that they were more able to ignore them with the passing of time. If they continue to trouble you, however e.g. if you continue to have upsetting flashbacks, anxiety attacks or problems sleeping, you should talk to your GP about the possibility of Post-Traumatic Stress. Your GP may ask you to fill in a questionnaire about how these memories, dreams or nightmares are...

Web Link: Humanising the ICU (delirium, PPE, patient gardens & ICU diaries)

This is a podcast from Mark Hudson, a former ICU patient. In it, he speaks with Kate Tantam, an ICU Sister in Plymouth about the many ways in which staff are working towards improving patients' experiences of ICU during the pandemic. They discuss, for example, delirium (e.g. being confused or having strange dreams), and how therapeutic ICU gardens and diaries can be for patients. They also discuss the impact of Intensive Care on family members. It's around 40 minutes long, but is...

Web Link: ICU unwrapped: a website explaining what happens in ICU

This link will take you to the ICU Unwrapped website, developed by the Intensive Care team at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. The website aims to provide short, simple, non-technical explanations of what happens in Intensive Care. The website offers information and frequently asked questions on a huge range of ICU-related issues.