The European Society of Intensive Care Medicine

The European Society of Intensive Care Medicine is an Association of individual persons. Founded in March 1982 in Geneva, Switzerland, ESICM is a non-profit making international association.

ESICM supports and promotes the advancement of knowledge in intensive care medicine, in particular the promotion of the highest standards of multidisciplinary care of critically ill patients and their families through education, research and professional development.



Welcome to the ESICM Patient & Family webpage, specially designed for patients and their relatives affected by critical illness and spending time in intensive care units (ICUs) across the globe.

By explaining the work of the doctors, nurses and supporting medical staff in ICUs, we hope to demystify the equipment and techniques they use, to translate some of the technical jargon and to help you better understand what happens in an ICU.

We can appreciate the emotional turmoil and difficulties experienced by patients and their loved ones, and it is my hope that this page may support you during this process. For this reason we have teamed up with ICU Steps – a support group based in the UK – to provide the links to a number of important resources and useful information available in 17 different languages.

While what you are experiencing as a patient or a relative may at times feel isolating and overwhelming, we would always encourage you to ask questions and to seek the advice of the ICU team. They are there for you.

Please take the time to watch the film “ICU faces” on this page. This is a recording of the personal experiences of many patients, relatives and staff, who have shared their memories and experiences with us, and now you.

With my sincere good wishes
Jozef Kesecioglu
ESICM President

ICUsteps was founded in 2005 by ex-patients, their relatives and ICU staff to support patients  and their families through the long road to recovery from critical illness. Our aims are to support  patients and relatives affected by critical illness, promote recognition of the physical and  psychological consequences of critical illness through education of the medical profession and the general public, and encourage research into treatment and the prevention of these issues.
ICUsteps is the United Kingdom’s only support group for people who have been affected by critical illness and has helped many former patients, their relatives and medical staff from organisations around the world.ICU steps provides a great deal of information for patients and relatives around an ICU stay. You will find high quality resources on this site in 17 different languages to provide information and support.

> Learn more

Virtual ICU

A virtual tour of where the patient will stay

What is Intensive Care?

Why is the care different in an ICU?

The ICU, the family & you

What you should know when visiting an ICU


Definitions of the more commonly-used terms in the ICU

• To support patient care across the globe
• To create international cooperation on education and health management in Intensive Care Medicine
• To transfer knowledge by developing educational and training initiatives that will contribute to the improvementof conditions and outcome of critically ill patients in Low and Middle Income Countries (both in the number & quality of lives saved)



> Learn more