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Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU)

Wards

The Paediatric Intensive Care unit (PICU) at Addenbrookes cares for children and young people who need special care for serious medical or surgical conditions.

Current visiting policy

Restricted visiting will be permitted on most wards. Please follow our guidance to find our more information as some areas do still have restrictions.

Read our visiting policy

About us

Children in paediatric intensive care require intensive care support from doctors, specialised nurses and other members of the PICU team.

We are a 13 bed unit comprising of 8 intensive care beds and 5 high dependency beds. Many of our patients are admitted directly to the unit from other hospitals as emergencies.

Patients may also be transferred from the emergency department or other wards at Addenbrooke's. Some of our patients have a planned stay with us after an operation.

Meet the team

The PICU team is made up of staff across a number of professions including:

  • Unit Consultants
  • Current Unit Registrars
  • Management Team
  • Large Nursing staff team and Health Care Assistants
  • Clinical Research Nurses
  • Critical Care Operating Department Practitioners
  • Psychologists
  • Bereavement Care Link Nurses
  • Physiotherapists
  • Dieticians
  • Child Protection Team
  • Infection Contro
  • Sick Children's Trust Acorn House
  • Chaplaincy
  • Interpreting Services
  • Volunteers

Find out more about our team

Ways to help

When you have a sick child it can feel as if your whole world has been turned upside down. Some parents say everything feels unreal and it is almost as if they are watching themselves in the situation. We have put together some advice to help you, your child and your family.

Ways to help your child

It is a very stressful time having your child admitted to PICU. Often admissions are unplanned, you are worried about your child’s health and you are in an unfamiliar place. You may also feel stressed because your feel unsure on how best to support your child.

Learn more about the ways you can help your child

Ways to help yourself

Naturally your focus is on your child and helping them recover/ cope with what is happening to them. However, keeping yourself well will help your child. We all have different ways of coping. Think about what helps you to relax and de-stress.

Learn more about the ways you can help yourself

Ways to help siblings

Often admissions are unplanned, you are worried about your child’s health and are in an unfamiliar place. You may also feel stressed because you feel unsure on how best to support your other children during this stressful time.

Learn more about the ways you can help siblings

Post-traumatic stress

For parents or carers who have been through a traumatic experience like a threat to the life of their child through illness or accident.

These experiences can be so overwhelming and frightening that individuals experience post-traumatic reactions, also called post-traumatic stress.

Learn about the symptoms in adults and children, looks at what can help and where to go if the symptoms persist

Frequently asked questions

Below you’ll find answers to some commonly asked questions.

If you don’t find the answer you are looking for, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Who will look after my child?

Our 13 beds are staffed by specially trained children’s nurses and your child will be allocated a nurse at the beginning of each shift. Your child will be allocated a consultant on admission who will remain your child’s consultant until they leave PICU/PHDU. They will oversee the medical care for your child. Specialist registrar doctors will be available 24 hours a day to care for your child.  

There is always a nurse in charge of the shift who can help with any questions you may have.

Can I see my child straight away?

This may be possible if your child is requiring high dependency care but will depend on your child’s condition. You may be asked to wait when your child is first admitted until we are able to get them settled in to the unit.

Nurses and doctors will keep you fully informed and will keep you waiting no longer than necessary. 

Can siblings visit?

Yes, siblings can visit and we encourage this as it can help with their understanding of the situation.

During times of winter vomiting bugs the Trust does restrict children visiting. If this is the case you will be informed at the time.

Can I stay overnight with my child?

Yes, but not at the child’s bedside or in the parents room. We have parent accommodation on the hospital grounds.

Acorn house is run through the sick children’s trust and endeavours to provide a space for you to sleep, cook your own meals, and have time away from the unit.

It is very important that you get some rest while on PICU/HDU so please do not feel you have to stay if you would prefer to return home overnight. 

Can I touch my child?

Yes, of course. We encourage you to touch your child and become involved in any basic cares that you feel you would like to do. You play a very important role in your child’s care and we encourage this as long as you are comfortable to do so.

Talking to your child and playing favourite stories and songs can also help and don’t forget their favourite teddy or special toy! 

We have a dedicated hospital play specialist on PICU/HDU. Play has a special function in the hospital environment, and hospital/registered play specialists lead playful activities and use play as therapeutic tool, when your child is ready. It is also important that your child has some quiet time too though.

What facilities are available?

We have a parent’s room available for your use. It contains tea and coffee making facilities, a fridge and a microwave. There are newsagents, canteens, cash points, and a bank in the main concourse. 

Discharge from Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) or the Paediatric High Dependency unit (PHDU)

When your child is well enough to leave Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) or the Paediatric High Dependency unit (PHDU) they will either return to a hospital near where you live, or they will be transferred to one of the children’s wards here at Addenbrooke’s. 

We appreciate that leaving the unit can be another stressful time for you and may provoke feelings of fear and anxiety. However, it is important for you to know that we only discharge children when they are getting better and this is a positive step in their recovery. 

Your child will be cared for by a team or teams of doctors depending on your child’s needs. The teams include junior doctors and a consultant who will head the team. They will monitor your child’s progress and visit daily, although they will not all be available on the wards at all times. 

As your child is in the recovery stage, a nurse will not need to be at your child’s bedside at all times. This allows you more of an opportunity to have a more active role in your child’s care. The ward may be noisier than PICU/PHDU as there may be more children in each room, more visitors and the children are not as sick. There are televisions at each bed space and a family room with tea and coffee facilities. One family member is able to sleep by your child’s bedside. 

Find out more about discharge from the paediatric intensive care unit to the ward

Privacy and dignity

We have same sex bays and bathrooms in all wards, except critical care and theatre recovery. In these areas we use high-tech equipment and/or specialist one to one care is required.