Staying with your child in intensive care

Your child may need looking after on the intensive care unit, which is known as PICU, after they've had surgery or because of a serious accident or illness.

If your child is coming into hospital for an operation, you may get the opportunity to have a look at the unit beforehand. Your specialist liaison nurse or ward nurse will organise this. Otherwise, contact Sarah Bundy, the unit's Family Liaison Sister, on 0121 333 9686 to arrange a pre-admission visit.

PICU a busy unit, so occasionally it may take staff a while answer the intercom or the phone when you ring. If you don't get an immediate response, this doesn't mean there is a problem with your child.

PICU is different to the other wards. Because your child needs extra-special care which may include help with breathing and feeding and specialised drugs, you might see lots of machines and equipment around the bed.

Unfortunately, there isn't room for you to sleep overnight right next to your child as we have to be able to move freely around the bed. However, there is a small number of recliner chairs you can draw up close to the bed, as well as some sofas in the parents' room, which you are welcome to use.

If you want a bedroom, there is limited accommodation within the hospital and at Ronald McDonald House, which is close by. Parents of children on PICU are given priority for accommodation (although if you live in Birmingham this will limit your chances of a room at Ronald McDonald House).

Parents can stay with their child 24/7. For extended family and friends, visiting times are 10am until 8pm (parents/carers must give their permission for them to visit).

Bear in mind that, because of all the equipment, it's quite hot in PICU. So wear light, loose clothing. If you've arrived because of an emergency admission, we'll provide you with emergency toiletries and a towel, plus a few snacks if needed. We really recommend you eat and drink plenty.

The parents' room, off the unit, has a toilet and shower (there are also showers and bathrooms in the hospital accommodation that you can use) and lockers for valuables. There are facilities for making tea and coffee and cold drinks and a fridge and microwave. After three days, you are entitled to a parents' food pass, which gives you discount in the hospital cafe or restaurant. But do seek out cheaper food outlets, such as the nearby supermarket.

There is WiFi connection on PICU, so you're welcome to bring your laptop (you'll just need to get it checked out by our electricians). You can use your mobile phone in the parents' room, though not on the unit. If you don't have a laptop, there's internet access at the Child and Family Information Centre near the main hospital entrance. There are a few TVs on the unit, but you can bring in a portable DVD player if you choose (again, this will need to be checked).

Please being in your child's favourite game, toy or comforter; even the duvet cover from their bed at home. Familiar things are really important to your child.

If you're breastfeeding, there's a room off PICU where you can express your milk. Or you can sit next to your baby, with the curtains drawn round the bed, and express there.

While your child is on the unit, you may have questions, either medical queries or to do with problems related to your child's stay in hospital (anything from car parking to money worries). There will be a highly-trained team looking after your child all the time, so they should be able to answer any medical questions you have. At least one consultant and other senior doctors are on the unit throughout the day and speciality teams visit daily.

If your child is going to be with us for a while, there are details in the parents' room of events taking place around the hospital, such as "tea and toast" mornings at Ronald McDonald House and "sibling splash" sessions, where we lay on an hour of crafts and messy play for patients' brothers and sisters.

You will be given a booklet on your arrival at PICU which explains about life on the unit in a lot more detail. But whatever needs and questions you have – please just ask.

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