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Ward Names

This is where you will be staying while in the hospital.  It is called the ward or the floor.  Whole hospital wings are dedicated to patients with similar diagnosis or age or severity of illness.  For example, if you have a cancer, you get admitted to the oncology floor.  Heart attacks go to telemetry or the cardiac unit.

The larger the hospital you are in, the more patients get divided up according to diagnosis.  In a small hospital of 20 beds, maybe there are 6 beds in the ICU and 14 medical/surgical beds.  In large University hospitals, there may be a 20 bed Medical ICU, a 20 bed Surgical ICU with an additional 20 bed Cardiac Care ICU plus all of the other specialty floors. All hospitals are different. 


Level of care is often decided upon by how sick you are.   The more sick you are, the higher level of nursing care you need.  For example, can you safely be seen every one to two hours? Or must the nurse always have you in their line of sight? Do you need continuous infusions to keep your blood pressure up? Or maybe finger stick glucose checks every hour?

Nurses are assigned the number of patients they need to take care of based on how sick the patients are, and the ward they are on. 

You often have to wait in the ER (boarding they call it) until a bed is available on the floor your need.

Here are some common ward/floor abbreviations:


ER or ED - Emergency room or emergency department.

ICU or CCU - Intensive care unit or Critical Care Unit - the most sick patients with unstable vital signs; sometimes divided into Medical (MICU) or Surgical (SICU).  Depending on severity of illness, nurses can be assigned 1 or 2 or rarely 3 patients at a time.

Medical/Surgical (Med/Surg) floor - A floor dedicated to medical patients or surgical patients.  Nurses on this ward often have 5 or more patients to care for at a time.

IMU or Step Down - Intermediate care unit, or step down.  Patient is here do not necessarily need the intensive care unit but are not quite well enough to go to the regular floor.  The nursing to patient ratio on this ward differs according to how sick patients are, but the nurses have less patient's to care for then a typical hospital med surge ward.  Patients here are often on a heart monitor.

Telemetry - You are on a monitor that watches your heart rate and rhythm all the time.

Peds - Pediatric unit.  For infants, children and adolescents to the age of 18.

NICU - Neonatal intensive care unit. This is for newborn's who are sick or low birth weight.

PICU - Pediatric intensive care unit.

TICU - Trauma intensive care unit.  These are only found in high-level trauma hospitals, usually in the city.

CCU or CICU- cardiac or coronary care unit that patients go to after specific heart surgeries or diseases affecting the heart.  CCU can also mean critical care unit as above.

OR - Operating room.

PACU - post anesthesia care unit.  This is where you go after coming from the operating room until your sedation wears off you are safe to go to the ward or home.

Endoscopy/Endo - This is where the gastroenterologist or surgeons perform colonoscopies (Lower)  or esophagogastroduodenoscopy or EGD (Upper).

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