Hamilton Health Sciences
Intensive Care Unit (ICU)

Visiting the Intensive Care Unit  

Your visit may be delayed depending on the patient's condition or the care being provided.

You may be asked to wait in the Waiting Room:

- When a patient is newly admitted to the ICU.  This process can take up to an hour or longer.

- During shift change in order to allow staff to assess their patients and focus on their reports.  Shift change occurs between the hours of 6:45 to 7:30, both morning and night.  The staff may also not take phone calles during these times.

We will always try to keep you informed and involved.

Hand washing is the single most important defense in a hospital to prevent and control the spread of infection.

Clean your hands:

  • before and after each visit
  • after using the washroom
  • after sneezing or coughing


Waiting Room and Quiet Rooms

The Waiting Room is a comfortable, quiet area in the ICU that all families and visitors can use while they wait.  Please limit the number of visitors at any one time to allow room for other families.  Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times.

The ICU has 2 rooms that are available for the families of our most critically ill patients.  They allow families in crisis to have a temporary quiet place to rest.



Important Times


The nurses, doctors and respiratory therapists are available 24 hours a day.

Mornings and evenings are busy times in the ICU. Nurses and Respiratory Therapists change shifts between 6:45 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. and again at 6:45 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Although visiting hours are flexible we remind you that during  change of shifts the staff are communicating to one another important information about their patients. They require this period of time to focus on their reports and may not be available to accommodate visitors. 


If you are visiting during the change of shift times, your visit into the ICU may be delayed.  If possible, please do not call or visit during these 45 minute periods. 

Visitors may be limited to two at a time. The number of times you may visit and the length of visits may be shortened. Please understand the ICU is unpredictable; things may not always go as planned. This can be frustrating, but we ask for your understanding. Please talk to a member of the ICU team if you need to have more than 2 visitors at one time. Children may visit with an adult. The ICU can be a frightening experience for a child. Please talk to the ICU team so we may help you plan your visit.

 We are flexible and will work with you to meet the needs of the patient and your needs. We will always try to keep you informed and involved. 

Sharing information with the ICU team 

In the ICU, people work together as a team to provide care. Family and friends are important members of our team. Please discuss the patient's wishes with the ICU team. Patients have a right to receive and refuse treatments.

Please bring a copy of any documents that might be useful in your loved ones care, such as a list of medications, past history and any advanced directives such as a Living Will or Power of Attorney. 


If your loved one is in an isolation room, please STOP and read the sign posted on the door to the room.  It will tell you what equipment to wear before entering.  Please ask the nurse for help.

We ask that one person be chosen as the family liaison or the main contact. This person will act as the main family contact or spokesperson. The ICU team will speak to this person who can pass information on to family and friends. Information, regarding a patient, will only be given to the next of kin or designated Power of Attorney to ensure privacy of our patients.

  Information over the phone will only be given to the main family contact chosen by the family. The doctor or nurse may not always be available to you but your call will be answered. It is important that you provide all contact information.
Please speak to any one member on the team if your family member has a special cultural or spiritual request. 


Visiting Practices


It is helpful for the patient to know people are by their side every day. Even if the patient is unconscious, it is important to speak to them as though they can hear you. Do not be afraid to touch your loved one. A loving touch is a great way to communicate.

It is important to allow the patient to rest often to help them recover. We ask that only 2 visitors at a time visit the ICU. Children may visit with an adult.

The ICU can be a frightening experience for a child. Please consult with your ICU team so we can help you plan your visit. If you are having a hard time talking with children about critical illness, a Social Worker, Chaplain and or the bedside nurse can help.

Taking Care of Yourself


It is easy to forget to look after yourself when a loved one is sick. The patient needs you to stay healthy and thinking clearly so that you can support and make the best decisions for your loved one. There is a Social Worker and a Chaplain available upon request. Try to keep a normal routine.

Try to get regular sleep, exercise and meal routines as regular as possible. Taking a walk, getting a cup of coffee, or going home during the day can help you keep well.

You may have many different feelings while your loved one is in the ICU. These may include fear, depression, helplessness, frustration and loss of control. These feelings are all normal and to be expected. Accept help from your friends, family and neighbours. Your life at home may feel overwhelming at this time. Do not be afraid to ask for and accept help when it is needed.

Discuss uncertainties- The ICU Intensivist is available to discuss with you, your loved ones condition. If needed, the family can meet with the ICU team. These meetings are booked ahead of time and can be asked for by the family and also the ICU team.

Remember, the staff are there to help you too. Please speak to the bedside nurse or the ICU Social Worker or Chaplain if you need to talk.

What Items do I need to bring to ICU

Take home valuables, clothing and other belongings as there is limited space in the ICU. Ask a bedside nurse what items are needed i.e. toothbrush, comb, and deodorant. We are a fragrance and latex free environment therefore there are no flowers or latex balloons allowed. Please turn off cell phones and pagers while in the ICU as they may interfere with the monitors.

What does it mean when an alarm sounds at the bedside?

  Remember all patients are continuously monitored in several places. The monitors at the bedside and the main nursing station allow the ICU team to monitor the patient at all times. Alarms are not always a cause for concern. Often, just a slight movement causes an alarm to sound. An alarm is usually not a sign of an emergency.
Hamilton Health Sciences • Hamilton, Ontario • 905.521.2100

Disclaimer: Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) offers Google Translate to better facilitate access for our community. However, HHS makes no claims regarding the accuracy of translations. Any and all health information should be verified by a health care professional.