One Goal. One Passion. Every Patient. Every Time.
University Hospital

A Family's Guide to the Surgical Care Unit (SICU)

A critical care unit can be a frightening experience for the family of the critically ill or seriously injured. We, in SICU, understand that you will need support during this time and we are here to help you. Please do not hesitate to ask for help. We're here for you and your family member.

There are many different members of the SICU Team with whom you will come in contact while in the SICU. Each person is vital and has a unique responsibility on the critical care team. The collaborative effort of this team assures the planning and delivery of quality patient care.



One of the first people you will meet is the SICU Nurse. The SICU Nurse has been specially trained to care for trauma, liver transplants, and other surgical patients that are critically ill. They provide ongoing assessments and treatments required for the patient. The nurse is the primary caregiver and is with your family member 24 hours a day. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have. He/she will be available while you are visiting. Frequently, the nurse will have another patient to care for and may not be at the bedside. Please ask another staff member and they will assist you.

The SICU physician coverage is 24 hours a day. The unit resident provides ongoing assessments and care in collaboration with other members of the patient's primary service and the attending physician.

Frequently, there are many consultants involved with your family member's care. There is always an attending physician on the consulting service who will be available to speak with you.

Respiratory Therapist
The Respiratory Therapist works with the Nurse and Physician in caring for the patient's lungs and breathing. He/she assists in managing the ventilator and will do tests to determine how your family member is breathing.

The Dietitians are actively involved in the care of your loved one. His/her nutritional needs are evaluated on the first day he/she is admitted in SICU.

Social Service
The Social Worker will help you with discharge planning or rehabilitation planning.

Rehabilitation Medicine
Patients in the SICU frequently have fractures, or are unable to move. The Physical Therapist will provide movement for the patient or assist in getting the patient out of bed. When the patient is medically able to move around, the therapist will work with him/her to start moving and walking independently, based on the patient's condition.

Bereavement Service
Should you or your family member need emotional or moral support, SICU has a very active team of specialists to be with you. They can make arrangements to accommodate any special needs you may have.

Yes, the family is a member of our Critical Care Team. It is very important for the patient to know you are here. In addition to the medical members of the team, there is an emotional component to getting well. That's your role.

The nurse will guide you in what you can do for your family member. Each patient is different, so what is OK for one patient may not be for another. Please ask your nurse what you can do.


There are many noises and alarms in the unit. The Nurse and other members of the team know these alarms. Each piece of equipment has its own alarm telling the nurse what is wrong. A brief description of the equipment is listed below.

The monitor is used to look at different measurements that are used to guide treatment of the patient. The monitor has many different alarms.

IV Pumps
The Pumps and Feeding Pump deliver fluid or nutrition to the patient.

Respirator or Ventilator
This is a breathing machine connected to the patient's tube. Movement, coughing, or change in patient's breathing pattern will set the alarm off.

Some special beds and other equipment have their own alarms too.


  • We encourage only family members or significant others to visit.
  • Friends and extended family members are asked to wait and visit when your loved one is transferred to the regular unit.
  • We can only accommodate 2-3 visitors at the bedside.
  • We ask that you visit in short intervals, leaving time for the patient to rest and for the nurse to render her care.
  • We ask that there is no visiting during change of shift (6a-8a) and (6p-8p).
  • The SICU Family Room is located outside the SICU double doors. Visitors and families are asked not to wait in the unit.
  • Public telephones are available at the elevator area on the E-floor. If you need assistance, please let us know.
  • Plants, flowers, or food are not allowed in SICU for infection control purposes.
  • It is a hospital policy not to give information over the phone. This is to maintain patient confidentiality. We ask the family to designate a representative to obtain updates about the patient and be responsible for informing other family/friends.
  • If you have any concerns, please ask for the Charge Nurse, Assistant Nurse Manager, or the Nurse Manager of the unit.

We appreciate your need to be with your loved one at this time, and we will make every effort to provide you with the time you need. Please remember that it is our responsibility to care for your family member. Feel free to speak with any staff member or the Nurse Manager if you should have any questions.

SICU Telephone Number: (973) 972-2648

Thank you,
The Caregivers in SICU