Patients & Families

The staff in a critical care unit

The staff are made up of lots of different healthcare professionals all working as a team

Medical staff

There is a senior doctor in charge of the ICU at all times, this is the consultant. Often they are consultant anaesthetists, but can be from other backgrounds. They are sometimes called intensivists as well. You may meet different ones during the stay but the consultants hand over to each other in detail and will know all about your loved one. When they meet you for the first time they will often take time to recap the condition and progress and establish what you understand of matters so far.

There will also be a number of junior doctors working on the unit, and always one covering the unit 24 hours a day, ready to respond to any emergencies.

Nursing staff

There is a senior nurse in charge of the unit at all times, called a charge nurse. They have in depth knowledge of the current patients, and the plans for their treatment. They support the other nurses working at the bedside and co-ordinate the unit’s activities for the day.

There will be a number of bedside staff nurses. The sicker patients will have their own dedicated nurse, for high dependency patients one nurse will look after two patients. If possible the same nurse will look after the patient day to day to keep continuity for the patient and their family.

In addition there may be a healthcare assistant or nursing auxiliary helping the team with patient care, stocking up and laundry supplies.

Advanced critical care practitioners – these are a more recent member of the ICU team, and not all units have them. They are usually senior ICU nurses who have trained in procedures such as history taking and line insertion, performing some of the tasks previously performed by junior doctors

Outreach nurses – these are senior ICU nurses who are trained to assist ward nursing colleagues with sicker patients, and with patients recently discharged from the critical care unit. Not all hospitals are able to provide this service.

Students – from time to time there might be student nurses and doctors attached to the unit. This is a valuable learning experience for them, and they are always fully supervised.

Other team members:

The physiotherapists review patients on at least a daily basis, helping them with their breathing, and in time with moving and mobilising. They provide exercises to rebuild muscle strength and balance.

The pharmacist visits the unit often and offers advice on how to give the best medication in the safest way.

The dietician helps to ensure that the patients are receiving adequate nutrition to meet their body’s needs via the best route.

The medical physics technician is responsible for maintaining the complex equipment in the unit, and performing checks and repairs to ensure patient safety.

The domestic staff are vital for ensuring that the unit is kept clean at all times. Let them or the staff know if you have any concerns about cleanliness.

Other people who might visit the unit

Visiting specialist doctors might include the patient’s own doctors such as their operating surgeon, or others that the ICU team would like the opinion of regarding the patient, for example cardiology or microbiology doctors.

Visiting specialist nurses include tissue viability nurses for patients with bad wounds, burns care nurses, stoma nurses, infection control nurses and speech & language therapists when the patient is having difficulty swallowing or speaking.

The radiographer takes x-rays on the unit with a portable x-ray machine.

Porters often come to the unit to bring supplies, help with moving patients around the hospital and to take away specimens to the lab.

The occupational therapist helps patients with activities of daily living such as eating and dressing, when they are weak or have a disability.