When Your Loved One is in ICU

Having someone you love in the Intensive Care Unit can be stressful and frightening. We understand and we know you will have lots of questions and concerns.

Patient care is our first priority. But, at Rush North Shore, we understand how important it is to reach out to help the families affected by a loved one’s hospitalization. We care about you and want to provide you with the information and assistance you need during this challenging time. 

This information was designed to help you understand the people who provide care in our ICU and as an easy-reference guide to visitation policies and other family matters. Please do not hesitate to ask questions or share your concerns.

Our Approach to Critical Care
At Rush North Shore, we value the collaboration of a multi-disciplinary team and the effectiveness of evidence-based medicine. Our treatment plans reflect current research findings and our critical care teams include specialists from many disciplines, who work together to give our patients the high level of attention and expertise they need.

A Rush North Shore critical care team, led by an intensivist, surgeon or cardiologist, may include other physicians; specially trained critical care nurses; respiratory therapists; pharmacists; dieticians; physical, occupational and speech therapists; spiritual caregivers, social workers, care managers; and other support services as needed.

What is an intensivist?
An intensivist is a physician who specializes in the care of critically ill or injured patients. He or she has had extra years of training in the complex care of these patients. 
Oftentimes, an intensivist will lead the critical care team and coordinate all care during an ICU stay. As the critical care leader, an intensivist will stay in close contact with your loved ones’ primary care physician and other doctors involved in his or her care.

Any member of the critical care team is available to answer your questions. 

Visiting the ICU
While in the ICU, your loved one may look or act differently. He or she may be taking medication that causes sleepiness, confusion or agitation. Ask the nurse if you are concerned.

Visitors to the Intensive Care Units are discouraged between 7 am and 9 am and between 7 pm and 8 pm. These times are reserved for critical care teams to assess patients' status and develop daily treatment plans.

When an isolation sign is posted outside of a patient's room, please check with a nurse before entering. This is for your safety and for the safety of our patients.

During a visit, caregivers may ask you to step out of the room. Please do not take offense. This allows us to focus entirely on the patient and their needs as well as to preserve a patient’s privacy and dignity during tests, examinations and other care.

In order to ensure the best possible healing environment for our patients, please follow these guidelines:

  • Only two visitors at a time.
  • Visitors must be at least 13 years old.
  • Please keep visits short to avoid tiring the patient.
  • When not in the room, please wait in the ICU reception area.
  • No flowers, plants or candles allowed. Small gifts or cards are fine.
  • No eating or drinking in patient rooms.
  • To prevent the spread of infection, wash or sanitize your hands before and after each visit.

Keeping Family Informed
Privacy concerns limit who we can speak to regarding our patients. We suggest you choose a family spokesperson to be the link between the ICU team and family members. Ask family and friends to call that person, not the unit, for updates.
Bedside phone use is at the discretion of the staff based upon the patient’s condition. Cell phones can be used in the hospital. However, staff can limit use in the ICU in the interest of patient care.

Family Meetings
We recognize time in an ICU can raise many concerns and questions. We welcome and value family communication. As needed, a family meeting can be requested by you or by someone on the multi-disciplinary team caring for your loved one. Family meetings can be used to discuss a patient’s condition, prognosis or plan of care. It can also be useful when making decisions about a plan of care.

When your loved one leaves the ICU
When a patient no longer needs the high level of care and monitoring available in the ICU, he or she will be transferred to another area of the hospital.

In some cases, a patient’s ongoing needs will best be met at a long-term care facility or rehabilitation facility. In that event, our Care Management team will work with you to make necessary arrangements, coordinate the transfer and answer your questions.

End-of-life Issues
If your loved one is facing end-of-life issues the ICU staff will call a family meeting. We will assist you in every way possible. We are here to listen to your needs, help you access appropriate resources and guide you through a difficult time.

Possibilities might include remaining in the ICU, transfer to another area of the hospital, transfer to the Hospice unit or, in some cases, going home. We will discuss the options available to you and help you select the most appropriate choice for your loved one.

For Your Convenience
There are a number of family amenities available to you in the hospital.
Please see guest services for more information.

To contact the ICU please call:

Medical Intensive Care Nurses Station

Surgical Intensive Care Nurses Station

Please note, we do not allow direct phone access to ICU bedside phones. Contact must be made through the nurses station.