ICU Communication With Families

Communicating With You in The ICU

Communication with you is a very important part of our job here in the ICU.

Different families prefer different amounts of information: some families like to know a lot of details, others don't. Here are some ways we can communicate with each other:

Designate a Spokesperson

We know there can be many family members and friends eager to know how a patient is doing. Communication works best when there is one designated person we can provide updates to. Oftentimes this is the patient's Health Care Proxy, if the patient has assigned one. That person can then be responsible for sharing updates with the rest of the patient's family and loved ones. Please let your care team know who the designated contact person will be.

Ask Your Nurse

This is often the first, and best, place to start. Nurses in the ICU take care of one or two patients at a time. They spend a lot of time with their patients and can be helpful in answering questions about the plan of care.

Ask Your Doctors

There is a team of ICU physicians caring for your family member. There is a doctor covering the unit 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Ask Your Social Worker

Social workers have helped families with issues including how to cope with the challenges of a loved one being ill and hospitalized, how to find resources such as local lodging or get extra help at home, and concerns related to alcohol or substance abuse. Ask your nurse to call your social worker.

Schedule a Family Meeting

A family meeting is a time for you to meet with the care team and review what's going on. It is protected time for communication about where we've been, where we're going, and what to expect.

Join Us on Rounds

Every morning, the ICU team (doctor, nurse, pharmacist, respiratory therapist, and sometimes others) review and discuss all aspects of your loved one's care and together decide on a plan for the day. In the past several years we have started to include families who are interested in joining as part of rounds.

(Note: The timing of rounds may vary in each ICU. Ask your nurse exactly when rounds happen in your ICU.)

Family Pagers

All of our ICUs have restaurant-style pagers that can be given to visitors. Sometimes when procedures are being done or care is being provided to your loved one, the team may ask you to step out of the ICU. You may also choose to take some time for yourself and get something to eat, go for a walk, or watch television in the family lounge. In any of these cases, you can take a pager with you and our staff will alert you if you are needed back in the ICU. This allows you to always feel connected to your loved one even from another area of the hospital.


Each ICU room has a whiteboard on the wall, with space for care team members' names, the plan for the day, and family members' contact information. There is also a designated area for patients and families to write their comments and questions for the team.

Patient and Family Engagement Program Seeks to Improve Our Diversity and Inclusion

In order to ensure that our advisory councils are representative of the diverse patient population at BIDMC, we are seeking applicants representing African American, Asian American, Latino, Muslim, LGBTQ, veteran, and other minority communities.