The art and science of care for the whole patient. This includes physical, spiritual, emotional and social care. Nursing promotes wellness, restores health, and improves the overall ways in which the patient functions.
Being fed or receiving nutrients that improve healing.
Occupational therapist
A healthcare professional who helps the patient relearn life skills. Examples of these skills include grooming, feeding, dressing and balancing a checkbook. The occupational therapist helps the patient live as independently as possible.
A machine with an electrical current that stimulates the heart so it beats at a normal pace. The pacemaker can be placed under the skin for a short amount of time or for the rest of the patient's life.
Palliative care
Medical care for the patient who is very ill and has pain that impairs his or her daily life. Medical treatment does not always stop the pain but can ease it. The easing of pain is palliative care. Palliative care can also prepare the patient and family in coping with an illness. End-of-life care is a form of palliative care, but they are not the same thing. The patient can receive palliative care at any time during his or her illness. End-of-life care, on the other hand, is comfort for the dying patient.
A drug the care team rarely use to prevent the body from moving. The team always give other medicines with the paralytic to relax the patient when he or she is not able to move. The effect of this drug can be reversed.
A person with an illness or injury who needs medical treatment.
Persistent vegetative state
A health problem that occurs after the patient "wakes" from a coma (a state during which the patient is deeply lacking consciousness). After waking, the patient regains low levels of consciousness but is not aware of his or her surroundings. The patient can open his or her eyes, make a face, or make a noise, but these are all automatic functions of the body. The patient cannot "think" or speak. He or she cannot reason with or relate to the surroundings.
To treat the patient who is in this state, the care team prevent infection and provide nutrients. They may also provide therapy that keeps bones, joints, and muscles working.
An expert in drugs who works with the care team to prescribe drugs the patient needs. The pharmacist checks the progress of these drugs during the patient's stay in the hospital.
Physical therapist
A healthcare professional who helps restore a function of the body that involves the muscles, bones, tissues or nerves. With this help, the patient can better move around in daily life (for example, walking, going up and down the stairs). The physical therapist uses techniques such as stretching and heat. These techniques can reduce pain and swelling. They can also prevent permanent physical disability.
Called doctor
A healthcare professional who can legally determine the cause of illness and treat the illness. In critical care, the doctor is known as an intensivist.
Physician assistant or nurse practitioner
A healthcare professional trained and licensed in clinical services. He or she works in the intensive care unit (ICU) under the doctor’s lead. Examples of what the physician assistant and nurse practitioner can do include:
  • Take the patient's medical history
  • Order and interpret medical tests
  • Perform medical procedures
They are often the “first responders” to changes in the patient’s health.
Post-intensive care syndrome
Called PICS
PICS is made up of health problems that remain after critical illness. They are present when the patient is in the intensive care unit (ICU) and may persist when the patient returns home. These problems can involve the patient's body, thoughts, feelings, or mind and may affect the family.
Pulse oximeter
A small machine attached to the patient's finger, nose or ear. It detects the pulse and the oxygen levels in the blood.
Radiation oncologist
A medical doctor who prescribes the amount of radiation needed to treat cancer. The amount is different for each patient who has cancer. When choosing the dose, the doctor considers the patient’s overall health and the size and stage of the patient's cancer.
Radiation therapist
A healthcare professional who supplies therapy that destroys cancer cells. The radiation therapist positions the patient on a table. Then he or she lines up the parts of the patient's body marked for treatment with rays from a machine. The therapist is not in the room when the rays are applied, but can see and hear the patient from a control area. He or she steps in, if necessary. The patient who receives this therapy should: 
  • Stay very still during treatment
  • Complete all scheduled treatments
  • Get regular medical tests so the doctor can assess overall patient health throughout the process
Radiation therapy
Medical treatment that can make cancer tumors smaller or get rid of them. Radiation therapy can also take away some of the symptoms caused by a tumor or prevent the tumor from spreading.
This kind of therapy sometimes harms normal cells, but they often get better. It usually lasts a few minutes a day, five days a week, for a few weeks. The length of treatment depends on the size and stage of the cancer. The most common side effects of this therapy include:
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in the skin
  • Loss of appetite
The doctor can work with the patient to treat these side effects.
Radiologic technologist
A healthcare professional who uses an x-ray machine to create an image of the body. Common images include those of tissues, organs or bones. These images help the doctor determine the patient's illness so the doctor can decide how best to treat the illness.
Registered dietitian
A healthcare professional trained and licensed in nutrition and illness. The registered dietitian works with the care team and the family to improve the health of the patient who lacks nutrients. The registered dietitian can lead or perform feedings by mouth, tube or vein.
Registered nurse
Called RN
A healthcare professional with a degree in nursing. The RN has been licensed by a State Board of Nursing. Some RNs in the intensive care unit (ICU) have an additional certification in critical care, called CCRN.
Called rehab
A post-hospital program that helps the patient recover from illness, injury or a medical treatment. The patient often regains strength or relearns a skill that he or she lost.
In critical care, rehab is important because the patient is sometimes bedridden for a long time. He or she may need to gain lost weight or strengthen his or her muscles. Rehab can be continued in the hospital or at home.
Renal failure
Called kidney failure
A health problem that occurs when the kidneys stop working in the way they should. Kidneys remove extra water and poisons from the body. If they fail and are not medically treated, water buildup can cause skin swelling in the arms, legs and face. It can also cause problems with breathing or in other organs. Poisons can affect the brain, and the patient may get sleepy or go into a coma.
Respiratory failure
A health problem that occurs when the lungs do not work in the way they should. 
Respiratory failure can occur during a stay in the intensive care unit (ICU) or be the reason someone is in the ICU. It is caused by health problems that affect breathing, such as:
  • Pneumonia
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS
To treat respiratory failure, the care team can strengthen or support the patient's breathing. They can bring up mucus from the patient's lungs or put the patient on a breathing machine.
Respiratory therapist
A healthcare professional who has special knowledge and practice in healing problems with breathing. The respiratory therapist uses lung treatments to help the patient breathe.
A drug that calms down the patient when he or she is injured or during a medical procedure. The patient who is on a sedative may appear less alert or asleep.
A serious infection in the body that causes the heart, blood vessels, and cells to work in ways other than they should. The patient's response to an infection can cause the body to inflame and the infection to get out of control. Many organs are affected, so the patient becomes very ill.
State of the body when the organs do not get enough oxygen and then blood pressure drops. Some causes of shock include:
  • Lack of fluids
  • Severe blood loss
  • Heart attack
  • Sepsis
  • Any massive trauma to the body, such as a car crash
If the care team is not able to reverse shock quickly, the patient's organs start to shut down. Symptoms of shock include:
  • Confusion
  • Cool and clammy skin
  • Bluish lips
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Heavy breathing
A health problem that occurs when the brain stops getting oxygen-rich blood from the artery. An ischemic stroke is caused by a blood clot, and a hemorrhagic stroke is caused by bleeding into the brain. Ischemic strokes are more common than hemorrhagic strokes.
Strokes that occur on one side of the body affect how the other side of the body works. Strokes that occur in the right part of the brain often cause vision problems and memory loss. Strokes that occur in the left part of the brain often cause speech or language problems and memory loss.
Going into the body to fix it. Surgery can fix deformities, defects and injuries. The care team use it to look for illness, remove harmful tissue, and replace organs that do not work well.
Surrogate decision-maker
Someone who makes medical decisions on the patient's behalf. The surrogate is usually a family member or close friend. The surrogate must be trustworthy, responsible and ready. He or she must know the patient's personal values and consider the pros and cons of each treatment.
If the patient has not chosen a surrogate before becoming ill, the attending physician (doctor) helps the family pick one. The choice is based on hospital or local laws.
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