There is always a doctor or several doctors working in the PICU. They will talk to you regularly about how your child is progressing. If your child is on a ventilator they will regularly check it is working well for your child. They will have the overview of what is happening with each patient and work closely with nursing staff. They will also communicate with families and carers to explain treatment, tests and results.
Sometimes ICU doctors will discuss patients with specialist doctors visiting the PICU. For example, PICU doctors work closely with surgeons after a child requires major surgery
In PICU there is often one nurse caring for one child. Sometimes a nurse will be caring for 2 children on PICU. The PICU nurse is highly-skilled and will know about any changes in your child's situation needing attention. PICU nurses have a deep understanding of how hard it can be for children and families on PICU. They will help involve you in the care of your child.
Ask your nurse questions if you don't understand what is going on with your child. Let your child's nurse know if you feel like your need more emotional or practical support.
The nurse coordinator has an overview of a child's care. They act as a single point of reference for your child and your family.
Their role is to:
A Child Life Therapist has knowledge about child development, education and play. They will help your child to understand what is happening in the PICU. They will organise play and fun activities for your child. They also have strategies to help your child manage feeling worried or upset. A Child Life Therapist will also work with a child's siblings and family to help them understand what is happening.
Dieticians advise on nutrition and feeding for children in PICU. They help ensure that children in PICU to get the right nutrition they need to recover.
Music can help a child feel relaxed and safe. It can also help with sleep and recovery. Music therapists bring music to children in the PICU. As children recover they may be able to play music and sing as a fun activity in their hospital room.
The occupational therapist will help with daily activities that your child loves to do or needs to do including learning and play. They will help your child to manage activities such as eating, dressing, washing and toileting.
Many hospitals have Pastoral Care Chaplains that come from different faiths and traditions. Non-religious patients and families are welcome to talk with the Pastoral Care Chaplain. Pastoral Care Chaplains are trained to work with people who have a strong faith as well as those with no particular faith.
The Pastoral Care Chaplain can offer any type of spiritual counselling. They will pray with patients and families. They also offer support, baptisms, blessings or can just be there to talk. Sometimes families would like a minister from their own faith tradition to visit their child. The Pastoral Care Chaplain will help arrange this.
A Patient Support Assistant is sometimes called a “PSA”. These support workers clean and maintain the PICU environment to a high standard. They help move or transfer your child to another part of the hospital (for example to the surgical theatres). They also serve patient meals and collect trolleys.
The pharmacist has expert knowledge on medications. They understand how medications work. They advise on medication doses and side effects. Having a pharmacist on the team has been shown to help prevent drug errors. They assist in tailoring doses of medications for children on PICU. Some PICUs have their own pharmacist. Other hospitals have a pharmacist who visits the PICU.
The pharmacist's role involves:
The physiotherapist will help your child to get moving again.
This may mean:
The physiotherapist may also help your child with breathing exercises. They have techniques to help your child with coughing to clear away phelgm.
A psychologist provides mental health support for your child and your family. Feeling scared, sad, confused, angry and frustrated are normal emotions children can feel on PICU. The psychologist will help your child and family manage these emotions.
Researchers sometimes visit the PICU. They are working on projects to improve understanding and treatments for children on PICU. They will ask for permission to chat with you. You can ask researchers to return at another time if that works better for you and your child.
Being sick and needing to be in the PICU can be difficult and frightening. The social worker is there to support the emotional and practical needs of your family.
They assist you and your family to access mental health support, financial support and other practical supports.
The speech therapist provides support for children if they have challenges with communicating on PICU. For example a child may require breathing support that also makes it hard to talk. Speech therapists also help support children to make sure they are safely chewing and swallowing food when they eat.
This topic was reviewed by a paediatric intensive care medicine specialist in August 2022.