We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is an Intensive Care Unit?

Jessica Ellis
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

An intensive care unit (ICU) is an area of a hospital reserved for patients who need close and consistent monitoring due to the nature of their illness, injury, or other condition. Intensive care units typically feature highly trained staff, and are usually equipped to handle a variety of emergency situations. Patients in an ICU often remain in the area until their condition reaches a point where physicians feel a less rigorous monitoring and care regime is warranted.

A hospital may have not just one ICU, but an entire department or wing devoted to specialized ICU care. Infants in need of critical care, for instance, are often in a different area than post-operative patients. Dividing an ICU into specialized areas allows better organization and ensures the most necessary staff and equipment are on hand for each type of patient.

Workers in an ICU usually have considerable training in intensive care. Many different people may work in an intensive care unit, including general physicians, specialists, nurses, physical therapists, psychologists, and chaplains. Doctors typically make rounds of ICU patients several times a day, and some hospitals only permit each on-duty nurse to monitor a few patients at a time. Staff in the ICU must adhere to rigorous hygiene and care procedures, in order to ensure that all patients are protected from potential infections, and that each patient is carefully monitored and treated as his or her condition requires.

People may be sent to the ICU for many different reasons. In many hospitals, it is routine for patients to be admitted to intensive care following a major operation, even if there were no complications during the procedure. Emergency patients who are admitted to the hospital may be placed in intensive care if they have received severe injuries that may affect vital signs, or if they have undergone a serious medical trauma such as a heart attack or stroke. Patients who develop severe infections may be isolated in the ICU, both to protect other patients and because of the generally higher hygiene standards in the area. Other patients in the ICU may have existing health conditions that require them to use specialized equipment in the unit, such as ventilators.

Visiting a person in intensive care can be an unnerving experience. Since patients need careful monitoring, they are typically hooked up to many machines that track their vital signs, and may be receiving IV medications or fluids. This can look frightening, but is generally not painful for the patient and not an indication that he or she is in any sudden danger. Visitors to the ICU may be able to visit during more hours than in other wings of the hospital, but are asked to stay away if they are ill or have recently been exposed to a cold or flu. Only one or two people may be permitted to visit an ICU patient at a time, and allowed visitors may be limited to family and authorized guests.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for The Health Board. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By Wisedly33 — On Jul 24, 2014

Most of the ICU areas I've seen have very strict visiting hours. They will usually allow one or two people back at a time for a certain length of time, and then the unit is closed for, say two hours, and there are no after hours visits unless the patient turns critical.

There is nothing more awful than getting an early morning phone call when you have a loved one in ICU. It's almost always very bad news.

I don't know how ICU nurses do it, since they have to be on the unit all the time, but I certainly take my hat off to them. They have an incredibly difficult job, but most of them are fantastic. I salute them.

By Scrbblchick — On Jul 23, 2014

They're also the most depressing places on earth -- second only to the ICU waiting rooms.

The ICU area is usually very quiet, and rooms are often glassed in and grouped around the nurse's desk, so the nurse has a full view of all the rooms at all times.

I'm certainly glad they're available, but I never want to visit in one again, for sure. Unless it's a step down unit which is more like a regular hospital floor, when you walk in, you can feel the seriousness of the place. People are waiting either to be moved to another floor, or to die. It's that simple.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
Learn more
The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.