Preventing Mishaps in the
Intensive Care Units
Intensive care is, without a doubt, the scariest part of any hospital. Some of the more recently constructed intensive care units (ICUs) look like a scene in a science fiction movie, with all the electronic monitoring devices and life-support machines. Most people who have to stay in such places are critically ill and need a lot more than a regular hospital floor can provide. Part of dealing with catastrophic illness is the intimidating effect of the high-technology machines. Nurses and physicians usually connect critically ill patients to such equipment by attaching wires to the skin and inserting tubes into various parts of the anatomy. The sights and sounds of all this will understandably generate feelings of apprehension and may prevent you from being able to scrutinize the services objectively. This feeling of being overwhelmed is simply a response to finding yourself in unfamiliar territory. In order to avoid being intimidated and be able to evaluate the quality of the services being provided, it is essential to learn a few basic facts about the equipment, multiple drug administration, blood transfusion, dialysis, and staffing in critical care for adults, children (pediatrics), and newborn infants (neonates).
Although we can also find the same high-tech devices and complications on regular floors, we shall explore those in this chapter because they are more common in the critical care areas. We shall also look at a strange phenomenon called ICU psychosis, which is a common reaction to all the elements of critical care. Finally, in the last segment of this chapter, we will look into standing orders, appropriate staffing levels, and the code (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).