Patients & Families

The critical care unit explained

Outside & inside

Most units have an entry-phone door, to protect patients’ privacy, and make sure that neither patient nor families are exposed to any risks. Please be patient when waiting for an answer, and only enter when staff say it is ok to do so. There are hand-rub dispensers at the main door and throughout the unit.

There is usually a waiting room, which aims to be clean and comfortable. There is often useful literature available, and bathroom and vending facilities close by. If there are any problems with these areas be sure to let staff know.

There is often a separate quiet interview room where staff can speak to families without interruption from other relatives, and to allow a private space in times of distress. There may be a noticeboard giving the names of the staff on shift, as well as information on the unit’s patient safety work and recent infection rates.

Outside & inside

The beds are usually clustered around a central area called the nurses station where staff can make phone calls, record notes and talk with colleagues. There may be some beds in separate rooms (called side-rooms) where patients who either have infections that are a risk to others, or are themselves at severe risk of infection, will be nursed. Patients in these rooms can still be visited, with appropriate care to avoid cross-infection.

The actual bed space has lots of equipment surrounding it – click here to find out more

A noisy place

With all this equipment and staff the critical care can be a noisy place with the potential for activity at any time of the day or night. Alarms are there to alert staff to a change in the patient’s condition but often do not signify something bad is happening. Staff will let you know what they mean. It is good to try and maintain a day-night cycle and unit lights are dimmed and noise levels kept to a minimum during the night, whenever possible.