When you leave the ICU

Before you leave

As you start to get better, you will not need the machines that were helping to support your body's normal functions and monitoring your condition. The physiotherapist will probably give you exercises to help strengthen your muscles to get you moving around again. You will be very weak and get tired easily at first.

As you become able to do more for yourself, you may be moved to a different section of the ICU or transferred to another ward in the hospital with a reduced level of nursing.

Many hospitals have high dependency units (HDU), where each nurse will normally look after two or three patients. Some hospitals might send patients from the ICU to the HDU as they get better, until they're well enough to go to a general ward.

Moving to a general ward

This can be a difficult time for patients and relatives because there is no longer the one-to-one nursing that there was in the early stages, but you are still far from being well. You may need to re-learn how to do simple things such as walking, eating, drinking, or even breathing for yourself. This can be frightening but is normal at this time in your recovery.

When you move to a ward, there will be a written plan that includes:

  • a summary of your care and treatment while you were in the ICU;
  • a monitoring plan to make sure you continue to recover;
  • a plan for ongoing treatment; and
  • details of your physical and psychological rehabilitation needs.

From this time you will be cared for by the ward staff, but they will be able to talk to the ICU staff if they need to. If the hospital has an 'Outreach' service, you may be visited by an ICU nurse while you're on the ward to check on your progress.

The visiting times in a general ward may not be as flexible as they are in the ICU and you may be disturbed more by other patients and visitors around you. Your normal sleep pattern may be upset due to the constant activity while you were in the ICU. This does return to normal in time. Rest when you can. You may find that a personal music player with headphones helps you to relax and pass the time.