Learning About the Environment in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU)

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What happens in the PICU?

In the PICU, children who are very sick get care for things like heart, breathing, or other serious medical problems. Children may go there to recover after surgery. Or they may get treatment for an injury or exposure to poison.

The PICU staff spends more time with fewer patients. So you may get to know the same nurses during your time in the PICU.

The PICU will probably have its own waiting room for visitors. And it will likely have its own clerk to check in with. Many PICUs are designed so that nurses and doctors can watch over their patients from a central area.

What can you expect in the PICU?

The PICU is often busier than other places in the hospital. There's more medical staff on duty and more equipment, blinking lights, and noise.

It can be scary and confusing for patients and their families, friends, and supporters. But all of the equipment helps the doctor and the PICU staff take good care of your child. It may supply oxygen, fluids, or medicine, or it may monitor vital signs. The staff will help you understand what all of this equipment does.

The PICU staff are experts at keeping your child as comfortable as they can. Your child will get medicine that will help manage pain and keep your child relaxed.

Children in the PICU need to rest. They may sleep much of the time. Hospital staff may dim the lights to help your child sleep. Visiting hours may be different in the PICU. Family may be asked to move to the waiting area so that the staff can treat your child.

The PICU must be as clean as possible to help prevent infections. You will need to wash your hands each time you enter the PICU. Depending on your child's condition, you may also have to wear a disposable gown, mask, and gloves.

The PICU staff is highly trained to care for children who are very sick. They will do everything they can to help. Friends and family can help give you support. You can also ask the hospital staff about counseling and other support.

Who will you see in the PICU?

Each patient has a large team of PICU staff. This team includes specialized nurses and doctors, therapists, and technicians. You may also see social workers and maintenance staff. The team is designed to keep your child comfortable and safe and to provide the best medical care.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.