An Intensive Care Unit is a special department in the hospital used to treat the most critically ill patients. Often, ICU patients need specialized equipment to help them perform basic bodily functions such as breathing. These patients receive constant treatment and monitoring. At MedStar Health, we are staffed by dedicated critical care specialists committed to providing expert, personal care to you and your loved ones.

Our ICU patients have an entire multidisciplinary health care team working to care for them. These specialists include physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, pulmonologists and social workers, who are critical care specialists.

Why is a patient admitted to the ICU?

Patients are admitted to the ICU because they need intensive nursing and medical care. In this area of our facility, we are able to provide a high nurse-to-patient ratio and offer a wide range of life-supporting therapies. We understand the concern you may have for a loved one while they are in our ICU and encourage you to turn to us when you have questions.

Selecting a family spokesperson

The cooperation of family and friends is essential for the proper care of patients in the ICU. Families should select one member to communicate with the physician and nurses and keep other family members informed of the patient's condition. Having one spokesperson helps ensure clear and accurate communication between the nurse, physician and family, and allows our staff to spend more time caring for patients.

Advanced Directives for ICU Patients

Advanced Directives (PDF) are a set of instructions that state your wishes regarding healthcare. They should address all aspects of life support so medical staff members are aware of your wishes should you become unable to voice your desires. If an Advanced Directive is not made, Maryland law allows someone else to make medical decisions for you. If no one has been chosen to decide treatment issues, the closest relative may be asked to make these decisions. In instances where no one is available, the court may appoint a guardian.

Flowers, gifts and personal items

We recommend that you take your loved one's belongings home with you once he or she is admitted. We realize visitors like to bring or send flowers and gifts. Cards and balloons are welcome; however, flowers and fruit baskets are not allowed in the ICU. Before bringing in food from home for a patient, please check with the nursing staff.

Visiting the ICU

  • Please inform the unit secretary or nurse at the main desk of your arrival. This will enable the nurse to prepare you on what to expect or to update you on possible changes since your last visit.
  • Try to schedule visits at times when the staff will be available to help you. Avoid arriving or calling at the change of shifts (6:50 to 7:20 a.m. and 6:50 to 7:20 p.m.). At these times, the nurses are exchanging information and performing their initial assessment, so they may not be readily available to answer your questions.
  • To protect you and your loved one, please use the hand sanitizer and necessary personal protective equipment before entering and leaving the patient's room.
  • Under certain circumstances, you may be asked to limit the number of visitors at the bedside or step back into the waiting room. Visitors may also be restricted to children over the age of 12.
  • While visiting the ICU, please stay in the patient's room. Do not congregate in the hallways.
  • Do not touch the equipment. If you think that there is a problem with one of the machines, ask your nurse.
  • Please do not eat or drink in the patient's room.
  • Do not use cell phones or pagers in the Intensive Care Unit. They interfere with the function of the equipment.