The Team

The Team


There’s no doubt that taking care of a critically ill child requires a team effort, utilizing the knowledge and skills of healthcare professionals from a variety of different educational backgrounds. You may find the makeup of your child’s team is different, based on the size or location of your PICU. If you do find yourself in a large hospital, however, you’re likely to meet several or all of these different groups. Having all these different faces may seem overwhelming and intimidating, especially when they all gather outside your door for rounds, but they are all committed to helping your child get better.

Nurse Practitioner: A nurse practitioner is someone who started out as a bedside nurse, gaining valuable knowledge and experience taking care of sick pediatric patients, who then went on to get an advanced degree that allows them to care for patients more independently. They often function similarly to residents and fellows, following, managing, and discussing specific patients. Lastly, because of their time and experience in the PICU, they are often experts and teachers for certain procedures like PICC lines.

Charge Nurse: The charge nurse is the lead nurse who supervises and provides help for all the bedside nurses in the PICU.

Bedside Nurse: This is YOUR nurse. He or she will make sure your child gets their medicines, that the machines are working appropriately, and they will monitor and record the vital signs. They are also very good at taking care of you child’s basic needs, like meals and diaper changes. Lastly, they are great at providing TLC if your child is upset or if you’re not available. A good PICU nurse could be singing a lullaby one minute, then be doing CPR and saving a life then next. Due to the fact that the bedside nurse does so many things and is so involved with your child’s care, they are often the first ones to notice that something has changed, for better or for worse.

Respiratory Therapist: Respiratory therapists are experts in the various therapies to help your child breath comfortably, whether that be just a little oxygen in the nose to full support from the breathing machine. They also have a lot of tricks and different techniques to help your child cough and clear mucus if necessary.

Pharmacist: Many PICU’s have a pharmacist that has special training in monitoring the medications given to an ICU patient. They often help us decide which medications are best for a certain problem, and how to give them in the safest way.

Nutrition: A dietitian is also commonly present on rounds to make recommendation regarding how many calories your child needs to heal, and what the best choice of food/formula is to meet those caloric needs.

Students/Residents: Just like there are various levels of learners amongst doctors, the same is true for these other team members. You may notice that you have a new nurse who is being supervised and oriented by your bedside nurse, for example. The pharmacy team will also frequently have students or advanced learners as well.