There may be times when staff ask you to leave the patient's bedside. This is because some of the necessary medical procedures are not pleasant and may upset you. It also gives the staff room to do their job.

Treatment

If the patient is ventilated (on a breathing machine), the nurses have to regularly clear the chest of mucus and fluid. They do this by putting a thinner tube into the breathing tube to suck up the mucus. This is quite noisy and may cause the patient to cough or retch.

The fluids given to the patient to keep them hydrated may make them look bloated and swollen. This is normal and will improve as the patient gets better.

Some of the machines that the patient is connected to have alarms that may sound to let staff know that something needs doing, for example if a drip needs to be changed. Usually, there is nothing to worry about – the staff will closely watch the patient at all times.

Behaviour

Sometimes, the patient may behave out of character. This may be because of their illness or medication. They may be agitated, confused, scared or paranoid. Paranoia is a form of anxiety or fear that can make you believe people are plotting against you or trying to hurt you. They may also have hallucinations (see things that aren't really there) and nightmares that seem very real to them. Patients sometimes believe the staff are trying to hurt them. This can be extremely distressing for you and the patient but it will improve as they get better and begin to recover.

If the patient in the ICU has been given sedatives, the sedatives will be gradually reduced as the patient gets better. This process is called weaning. Depending on how ill they were, the drugs they needed and how long they were sedated for, the weaning process can take hours or it can take days. During the weaning process, the patient will be drowsy and confused, particularly in the early stages, but it's a necessary step and it means they're getting better.