The PICU is a combined medical / surgical intensive care unit, and admits over 700 critically ill or injured patients every year. (Children who are less severely ill are admitted to the Pediatric Intermediate Care Unit.) In the PICU, we treat any condition that could threaten the life of a child. These include severe infections, accidental poisonings, drug overdoses, birth defects, severe asthma, pneumonia, and immune system disorders. We provide post-operative care to children who have had complex surgery, and we treat many children every year who are injured in car, bike and pedestrian accidents, falls and near drownings. The PICU provides an area for the use of sophisticated monitoring guided by experts in pediatric critical care.
The PICU is a multidisciplinary unit. This means that there is sometimes more than one physician involved in the care of the children: for example, a child recovering from a major trauma will be cared for by the pediatric trauma surgeon, the pediatric intensivist, and any other subspecialty surgeon that is required (pediatric neurosurgeon, pediatric orthopedic surgeon, etc). If a child is recovering from cardiac surgery, they will be cared for by the pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon, the pediatric intensivist, and the pediatric cardiologist. If this child should develop kidney problems, then a kidney specialist (pediatric nephrologist) may be needed. Similarly, should some problem arise with the blood, then a blood specialist (pediatric hematologist) may be required. These physicians are called sub-specialty "Consultants" and would perform an evaluation called a consultation. Penn State Children's Hospital carries a full complement of pediatric surgical and medical consultants. No matter how many physicians are involved, overall care will be directed by the pediatric intensivist or the pediatric surgeon or pediatric subspecialty surgeon.
Since our Children's Hospital is a teaching hospital, many other physicians-in-training will also be involved in the care of children. These include resident physicians in pediatrics, combined medicine/pediatrics, surgery, anesthesiology, and emergency medicine. The PICU team includes physicians who have completed their pediatric residency training and are receiving additional training in pediatric critical care medicine. Medical Students from the Penn State College of Medicine may also be on rotation in the PICU and may be involved in the care of these children. The PICU at Penn State Children's Hospital also has certified nurse practitioners, who have undergone extensive training in the care of critically ill or injured children, extensively involved in the care of PICU patients.
The PICU nursing staff supports and encourages family centered care. This means that family members are welcome to help with the care of the child. This is especially true with activities of daily living such as bathing, feeding, changing diapers, brushing teeth, changing clothes, fixing hair, etc. With the goal of family centered care in mind, the PICU has an open unit, meaning that the PICU is open for visitors 24 hours a day, except in times of surgery or medical emergencies. A child life specialist provides for the intellectual and play needs of our young patients. To provide for the needs of the entire family, Penn State Children's Hospital makes available, at the family's request, clergy, social services, and child and family psychiatry. For families from out of town, lodging can be obtained at the Ronald MacDonald House, which is located across the street from the hospital. The Ronald McDonald Family Room, located right outside the PICU, is also available for families to rest and eat in comfort.