Ask A Magnet Nurse: Inside The ICU and the PCU

with Brenda Sellers, RN, Bed Czar, Candler Hospital

Smart Living: Patients sometimes need to be transferred to the ICU or the PCU during their hospital stay, and family members may not be familiar with these terms. What does ICU stand for and what is its purpose?

Brenda Sellers: The ICU is the Intensive Care Unit. This is where, as the name suggests, the patient is receiving the most intensive level of care possible for the stabilization of their condition. A patient admitted to the ICU needs constant monitoring with specialized equipment that may include mechanical ventilation, cardiac monitoring, and multiple IV lines. ICU’s have a large care team that includes physicians, nurses, and patient care technicians, as well as staff from respiratory therapy, pharmacy, dietary, physical therapy, and critical care coordination.

SL: What does PCU stand for?

BS: The PCU is the Progressive Care Unit. Patients admitted to the PCU also need close monitoring and extra nursing care for their condition, but not at the same level of intensity as patients in the ICU. Often in the PCU, the status of a patient has improved enough that, even while they are being closely monitored, they can perhaps sit or stand up, move around, or start eating again.

SL: Do patients in ICU come straight from the emergency room?

BS: Yes, the ER will transfer patients to the ICU if they still need intense monitoring and treatment. But patients can also be directly admitted from other areas, including a doctor’s office, another facility, or surgery.

SL: You mentioned that the ICU has specialized equipment for the level of care needed. Are the nurses also specialized?

BS: Yes, the staff must be trained and credentialed for work in their unit, but that’s only the beginning. They also need to be both quick and compassionate. They need to be great communicators and true team players.

The ICU and the PCU can be stressful environments, but I believe these are places where God is in control. It is extremely rewarding to see a patient recover from a point where their condition was deteriorating, and to know that these units do make a difference.
  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
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St.Joseph's Hospital Campus: 912-819-4100

Candler Hospital Campus: 912-819-6000