Daily practices in Intensive Care

The day of a critically ill patient is punctuated by the passage of different members of the healthcare team. Doctors examine patients every morning and update the medical record. If the evolution of the patient’s condition requires, this review will be repeated, several times a day.

Besides this review, the nurse and caregivers will give the prescribed care (drips, bandages, blood collection, etc.).

The patient is regularly mobilised in order to receive specific anti pressure-ulcer massages. Body hygiene is also taken care of several times a day. Patients that are awake can be seated in a chair or in their bed by a physiotherapist, in order to stimulate their muscles.

Whether the patient is conscious or not, the physiotherapists works with every patient, to keep their joints and muscular mass flexible.

What is meant by “intensive” or “critical” care

Intensive care is the medical speciality that supports patients whose lives are in immediate danger – like when a vital organ such as the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys or the nervous system is affected, for instance:

  • Cardio-vascular incidents (heart attacks or strokes)
  • Severe Infections
  • Acute Respiratory Infections
  • Neurological problems
  • Post-Operative Care
  • Complications

Intensive care resets the «balance» of the patient’s defective vital organ(s) before the patient can be transferred to another medical speciality.

Such as:
• Heart attack
• Acute heart failure
• Shock
• Strokes
• Complications due to high blood pressure
• Abnormal heart rhythms…

Such as:
• Pneumonia
• Meningitis
• Urinary infections
• Abdominal infections
• Septicemia or Septic shock…

Caused for example by:
• an acute exacerbation of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
• a Pneumonia
• a serious asthma
• a Pulmonary Embolism…

Resulting from:
• a brain haemorrhage
• acute ischaemic shock
• a severe head injury
• a paralysis
• a convulsion
• a drug overdose…

• major surgery (cardio-thoracic surgery, neuro surgery…)
• an organ transplant
For patients at high risk of cardio-vascular disease

  • Cancers
    • Leukemia or systemic diseases
    • Polyarthritis
    • Lupus…

About 5 million adults worldwide are admitted to Intensive Care Units (ICUs) per year. Thanks to the dedicated teams of medical professionals working in ICUs, the majority of ICU patients survive.
Every time our life is in danger, an intensive care team takes care of us, and takes over the function of defective or damaged organs. In the case of a pulmonary infection, the team helps us to breathe…In place of the kidneys the staff eliminates waste or maintain our blood pressure in the case of shock…
To maintain or replace the function of organs, patients admitted into ICUs require complex treatments and constant surveillance (24h/24 and 7/7). To ensure this specific level of care, the ICU has a team of highly qualified staff and special medical equipment.
Without treatment and adapted monitoring and surveillance, the consequences of these kinds of illness can be detrimental to our health and the situation life-threatening.

How long can a patient expect to stay in an ICU?

The length of stay of a patient in intensive care depends on a patient’s condition and varies from several hours to several weeks, sometimes several months.
Very often, we imagine intensive care to be a transitory speciality, which is sometimes true, in the case of a heart attack, for example, where every minute spent without care or without first aid is vital.
It is also a speciality that is long-lasting for many patients who will stay for a number of days, even weeks, in our services – the time needed for the damage to the organs to disappear and for the patient to be transferred to another service, where the level of care is less intensive.
The progress of the intensive care is indispensable for the progress of the other medical specialities.


A stay in intensive care can last from a few days to several months and is often punctuated by improvement and aggravation phases.
The weakness of patients is such that staff have to be very careful when predicting or evaluating a diagnosis.
Admission in ICU is often critical: the treatments are immediately “heavy” and intense in order to stabilise the patient as fast as possible.
After this critical phase, other infectious or technical complications can occur, which can worsen the situation.
According to the evolution of the patient, sedative treatments or any other technical assistance may be started, stopped and restarted, which can seem like a step back to you.
Feel free to ask the ICU staff any questions you may have about the treatment, techniques and care that your loved one is receiving.

Intensive Care Rooms

TAn intensive care room can be a very daunting place. Its layout is designed to allow continuous observation of patients and highly technical care night and day.
The rooms are equipped with many devices to allow the medical staff to monitor the patients. You will see sophisticated machines and screens. You will also hear alarms and you may be surprised to see glass partitions – these help the staff to keep watch. All the devices are connected to a central station to enable control outside the room.
The alarms are set by the staff, according to each patient’s needs and allow the caregivers to determine if urgent intervention is needed, or not.

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Definitions of the more commonly-used terms in the ICU