Hospital  >  Departments  >  Critical Care Medicine  >  Navigating the ICU - OLD  >  How do I get information?

How do I get information?

One of the most important roles of the health-care team is communicating with patients’ families. It allows the team to properly update you about your loved one, answer your questions, clarify topics, support you during the difficult times and learn more about your loved one, so the team can help you make the best decisions in cases where the patient is not able to speak for him or herself (learn more about your responsibilities as Substitute Decision Maker).

When can I speak to the team?

There are nurses and physicians in the ICU, 24 hours a day, to talk to you.

Who will speak to me after my loved one is admitted to the ICU?

Your first encounter with the team is at the moment of admission. This is often a very stressful time, especially if it is an emergency.

  • Either a physician or a nurse involved in your loved one’s care will provide you with an update as soon as the patient’s admission to the unit has been completed.
  • At this early stage, many things you would like to know are uncertain, so the team members may not be able to answer all your questions.
  • They will keep updating you frequently as things evolve.

What are daily patient rounds?

The daily patient round is the time when all clinicians (nurses, pharmacists, physicians, dietitians, physiotherapists, respiratory therapists and others) get together to discuss each patient individually at the bedside, and make decisions about care and treatment.

  • Daily rounds are led either by the attending staff intensivist or by the fellow.
  • By doing rounds every day, it helps provide better care to patients, and makes sure all the team members know what needs to be done.
  • In teaching hospitals, rounds are also a learning opportunity for doctors-in-training, such as residents and fellows.

Can I participate on rounds?

You are part of the team and we welcome family members to be present during the daily rounds! You, and other people close to the patient, can be important sources of information for the team looking after your loved one. After all, you know the patient best.

Some of the discussions at rounds can involve unfamiliar medical words. But team members, together with this website, can help you better understand some of the things they are talking about.

  • Rounds can provide an opportunity to get brief updates on the patient’s condition, which can change on a daily basis.
  • The staff intensivist will often stop for a few minutes before moving on to the next patient and give you a summary of what was said at the team discussion.
  • Nurses can also help you understand what was discussed.

Who can update me at the bedside?

If you are not able to be present during the daily rounds, the bedside nurses can provide regular and frequent updates about how your loved one is doing, what changes have taken place since your last visit, and what plans were made at the morning rounds.

While you are at the bedside, various members of the care team—including physicians—may come by to check on your loved one. Please feel free to ask them for updates and raise your questions and concerns.

How can I arrange a family meeting?

You can ask anyone on the team to schedule a meeting. Your bedside nurse may be the best person to help you organize that.

You can schedule a private family meeting with the team whenever it is hard to understand what is going on, you are having difficulties making decisions, or you feel you can’t cope.

At family meetings, you will meet with the doctors and nurses taking care of your loved one, and other members of the team if needed.

  • Sometimes the ICU team members will call you for a family meeting, especially if they think you may need help understanding and coping with what is going on.
  • They may also request a meeting to get more information about the patient’s medical history, personality, values, and beliefs (learn more about why it is important to share the patient’s values with the team). This information could help shape the course of treatment.

Family meetings usually take place in a private room and are scheduled for a time when all participants can be present.

If you cannot be at the hospital in person, it is also possible to be updated by phone.

How do I prepare for a family meeting?

  • Make sure the nurse has your correct telephone contact information.
  • Obtain a pad of paper and consider keeping a note of the names of team members, key information you are told, and any questions you might have.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions—any question you need answered is a good question.
  • If the patient is not alert, be sure to share his/her wishes regarding surgery, life-supporting treatments and other interventions.
  • It is good practice to learn more about your responsibilities in making decisions for your loved one.

How can I get help with translation?

We will always communicate with you in the language of your preference. Many times, it is better to have a professional translator to help. If you're having difficulties in communicating, please let the team know and we will arrange for a meeting with a translator.

Who can we talk to if we have a problem regarding care?

The Office of the Patient Experience assists families when they feel they are having difficulty connecting with the team or getting the required information. An advisor will sit with you, listen to your concerns and work with the team to help resolve these concerns. If you feel you would benefit from assistance, please feel free to contact the Office of the Patient Experience.

It is located in C-wing 1st floor room 61 (C161). Contact information: website: sunnybrook.ca/ope, email: patient.experience@sunnybrook.ca, tel: 416 480-4940.

If we have a large family, who gets the information?

We usually recommend to have a point person, who is responsible for communicating with the health-care team.

  • The point person can relay information to the entire family.
  • This approach helps to ensure continuity of what every family member knows. When multiple people receive information at different times, it may lead to some confusion or misunderstandings.
  • The point person is usually the Substitute Decision Maker (SDM) or a delegate of the SDM.

When several family members want a detailed update directly from the team, the best approach is to arrange a family meeting where everyone can be present.

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Location and contact

Critical Care Medicine

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
2075 Bayview Avenue, 
D-wing, 1st floor
room D1 08
Toronto, ON M4N 3M5

Phone: 416-480-4522
Fax: 416-480-4999

For information about patients admitted to Sunnybrook's Intensive Care Units, please contact the unit through the hospital switchboard at 416-480-6100