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A standard ICU day

(Download page as docx)

Sample daily routine on the ICU


Example time Activity  
0800 Handover  


Ward round Format depends on unit and consultant
Patient review
1200 Radiography round Depends on unit whether these happen at all
1230 Microbiology round
1300 Lunch Whenever you can


Post-ICU clinic etc Timing likely to depend on unit activity
0900-1700 Own-team reviews  
Scans – potential transfers
Ward reviews
New admissions
Additional results from morning tests
Family updates/meetings
Transfer to other hospital/unit
1600-1800 Afternoon/evening round Ensure day’s plans have been achieved and put in place plan for night
1800-2000 Management changes from ward round Line changes etc.
2000-2100 Night shift handover +/- round  


Reviewing the ICU patient


Know the history and progress first. Acknowledge any limitations on movement (eg spinal injury restrictions, known or suspected high ICP recent history of desaturation on rolling etc.) and removing dressings.

Stand back and observe

  • Mental state, GCS, sedation score
  • Monitors
  • Equipment attached
  • Infusions
  • Drains

Speak to the patient

  • Symptoms, trends, pain score etc.
  • Gain consent to examine.

Use your unit’s proforma review sheet or follow this:


Mouth – perioral skin, lips, tongue, Candida?, dental hygiene, bleeding, cyanosis

Tubes/devices – ETT length at teeth, other airway device, oesophageal Doppler, OG tube,

Nose – airway device, NG tube (secure?), discharge, bleeding.

Standard respiratory exam (probably can’t sit them forward, worth auscultating after suction/cough, as anteriorly and posteriorly as possible (often only axillae)

Look at tidal/minute volume.

Note settings (FiO­2, mode and pressures) and doses of bronchodilator nebulizers or  infusions.


Peripheries – colour, perfusion, pulses, skin changes, anaemia

Standard examination

CVS parameters and infusion rates of pressors, dilators, chrono/inotropes.


Wounds. Feeding regimen. Palpate, ascultate. Stoma output. Drain output. Rectal tube output / stool type. Drain/catheter sites, integrity, output.

Neurology and mental state

Eyes – erythema, oedema, pupil size and function,

Agitation score and delirium assessment. Ask about hallucinations, anxiety.

Focal neurology if appropriate

Fluid balance and kidneys

Last 24hr and whole stay

Diuretics used?

Renal function results.

Urine sample required?

Skin and lines

Lines in date and site ok

Skin survey


Then continue with the notes/chart/computer


Hb, platelet and coagulation values.

Consider blood products if lines/procedures planned


New results – inflammatory markers and specimens. Known colonizers.

New cultures required?

Drugs, day and reason for doses and levels.

Drug chart review

Anything to stop.

Interaction/allergy check.

Treatment limitations

Therapeutic ‘ceilings’ or DNAR orders etc.?

Jehovah’s witness re blood products

Advance directives

Next of kin or advocate

Updated and in agreement with the plans.

Document all the above

Start with the current main issues, and indicate whether they are improving or deteriorating.Then:

Your review findings

In the order as above

Your impression

A summary line, likely to conclude with ‘deteriorating’, ‘improving’, ‘weaning’ etc!

Your plan

Address the current issues in turn

Sample ward Round Structure

Decision re who gets seen first – potential discharges ‘v’ most unwell ‘v’ just sticking to the order.

At each patient

Admission diagnosis and background (PMH)

Clarify if necessary

Progress summary

The stage of their critical illness

The general trend

Systems reviewed – as per above structure

Results reviewed

Imaging reviewed

View, compare, view report, discuss with radiologist or specialist, ?repeat, opinions in notes


Drug review

For each drug, check: still required, not contraindicated, level checked, dose adjustment, convert route or convert to alternative, interactions.

Pre-admission drugs restarted where appropriate.


Speciality review (?other hospital).

Palliative care

Pain team

Family and home team update

Instructions in notes and for nurses clearly written


Final rapid-fire cross-check – eg FAST HUG or adapted version eg ‘FLAST HUG DRIFT’:

  1. Fluids/feeding/faeces (ie aperients)
  2. Lines – still required, VIP, correctly sited
  3. Analgesia/Sedation started/stopped/altered
  4. Thromboprophylaxis started/stopped(for procedures/bleeding)/HIT,
  5. Head-up/rolling/spinal precautions,
  6. Ulcer prophylaxis started/stopped/correct,
  7. Glucose control – ?alter scale or change feeding regimen or restart long-acting insulin etc
  8. Drugs stopped/adjusted/restarted (inc pre-admission drugs)
  9. Referrals made/done and home team updated
  10. Imaging needed/reviewed/referred
  11. Family updated
  12. Team up to date and in agreement (nurses instructions etc)

1 comment

  1. Ernst Coert

    Excellent info

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