3 Questions to Ask If Your Loved One Is in the ICU
When someone you care about is in the ICU, you might not even know what to ask attending doctors and caregivers. Here is a guide to stay informed — including three questions to ask hospital staff.
Contributor: Duncan Hite, MD, Former Department Chair, Critical Care Medicine
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The Medical Intensive Care Unit, or what people commonly call the ICU, can be just that – intense.
Most patients are admitted because they have a serious, comorbid illness that requires critical, round-the-clock care. These people have often developed pneumonia, sepsis, or multiple organ failure. Feelings can run high, especially for patients and their families.
When someone you care about is in the ICU, you might not even know what to ask attending doctors and caregivers. Here are three questions to ask to stay informed:
You should expect an update on the status and treatment plan for your loved one each day from the nurse and one of the physician team members. You should also ask how and when you can reach medical staff for updates.
When your loved one is admitted, ask your team of physicians for the “on-call” telephone or pager number you or your loved one should call if there is an urgent question.
Remember, you can always ask to speak to the attending physician by asking the nurse or one of the other team members. The afternoon hours are the best time of the day for physicians to speak with you.
A variety of physicians will work in shifts to care for your loved one. It is also important to know that the number of physicians available at night is less than during the day. Best times to speak to the physicians for updates is in the afternoon (between 1-5 p.m.).
The physician team is made up of the following:
Other caregivers include a bedside team, who is made up of the following:
Other people are also involved in your loved one’s care. These include:
As you can imagine, multiple shift changes occur, so familiarize yourself and your family with each member of the medical team.
The recovery time in the ICU can be highly variable (a few days to a few weeks) because of the range of cases. Stay in touch in a continued, open relationship with the attending physician. This doctor and the medical team can advise you on the condition of your loved one’s health and next steps.
Family Member in the ICU? Ask Questions