ICU tips you shouldn't ignore

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28 Feb, 2022

The Intensive Care Unit (ICU) is truly an intense treatment area, causing a great deal of concern and stress for patients and families. ICU etiquette is crucial to maintaining the decorum and sanctity of the environment. Appropriate and effective communication is necessary for the recovery process, not just for the patient but also for family members.

Here are some suggestions for how to communicate with a family member in the ICU:

  1. Keep calm and talk softly

Always speak in a calm and clear way. Be concise and positive in our communication. Many people wrongly assume that the loved one being on a ventilator means their hearing is impaired, so they tend to speak loudly. However, this is not required

  1. Positive reinforcement

Provide positive reinforcement by acknowledging the facts without getting agitated. Accept that your loved ones may be experiencing discomfort and explain that the situation is temporary. For instance, you can tell them that they are in the ICU and the tube is provided to help them breathe better. Tell them they are doing great and making progress

  1. Communicate via writing

Several hospitals provide a small board for patients to write on. Many patients can write enough to tell you their immediate needs. If the hospital doesn’t provide it, you can get your own board and help the patient communicate

  1. Don’t badger the patients with questions

Sometimes being there silently with the patient can do more than a lot of communication can. Don’t ask questions that he or she is unable to answer. Often patients are angry, frustrated or not interested in talking. Respect their feelings and allow them to be. Offer short phrases of reassurance telling them that you are there and that they are recovering faster and everyone’s very competent at the hospital. Using hand gestures can also help when communication is not a possibility

  1. Use the power of the present moment

Orient your loved ones to their surroundings, the date and the time of the day. Make a sign each day with a date on it and place it for them to see. Hold their hands and touch them gently if it is allowed

  1. Liven things up

You can read your loved one’s favorite poems, prayers, books, stories or share interesting anecdotes if they are in the mood for it

  1. Check the ICU rules and regulations

Each hospital has its own set of rules and regulations for the ICU. Don’t forget to read them along your way to visit your patient. Follow instructions strictly because it helps the hospital manage things better. Also, check with the critical care staff before you touch anything or say something to the patient. Overstimulation can be harmful during the recovery process.  Ask them for suggestions on what would be the best help to your loved ones at this time

  1. Keep your emotions in check

If you are in an emotional state or upset, it is best to leave the room without alerting the patient. It may be distressing for your loved one to witness you in this state. Take care of your own health and drink plenty of fluids to cope with the stress

  1. Appoint designated family members to communicate with doctors

Choose two designated family members to communicate with the physicians and nurses with regards to the loved one’s daily progress. Ask other family members to get their updates from these members. Critical care staff doesn’t have the time or bandwidth to talk with multiple family members


The ICU is an extremely critical place filled with a lot of activity. Patients may have disruptive sleep due to the constant beeping and buzzing. Follow the above-mentioned ICU etiquettes to ensure you don’t add to the noise and chaos. Maintain a calm demeanor and exude positive vibes to speed up your loved one’s recovery process.


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