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Jan 30

Day in the Life: Intensive Care Unit

Hello and welcome to another Medical Mondays! My first rotation for the new year was in the intensive care unit, which, truth be told, I had been absolutely dreading.

The ICU in the hospital I’m at is a closed unit (only we should be putting in orders) divided into two teams: Scarlet + Silver. I worked with the Silver team and stayed on with them for the full four weeks for continuity’s sake, so ’twas a good thing that they were an awesome group to work with. :]

The other intern I worked with was very laidback and really helpful in terms of answering any questions that I had. Our attending for the first week was super awesome! I really enjoyed working with him–he reminded me of the surgeon I worked with back when I was a med student (they were both super nice, friendly, and passionate about teaching)!

Day in the Life: Intensive Care Unit

intensive care unit

7-7:30 a.m.

We receive sign-out from the night team on any overnight events that happened with our patients. The team with more members there at the beginning of sign-out would get sign-out first, so we usually all tried to be on time, although this sometimes wasn’t possible (e.g. patients coding :/ ).

7:30 a.m. – 9 a.m.

We’d use this time to round individually on our patients, follow up on labs and imaging, replete whatever was necessary, check in on consults, talk to families if they were there, etc.

I got to see sunlight approximately twice a week, so I got myself a container of vitamin D supplements. Yay for preventative care, hahaha.

I got to see sunlight approximately twice a week, so I got myself a container of vitamin D supplements. Yay for preventative care, hahaha.

9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

We meet up with our attending and do team rounds on all our patients and come up with a plan for each of them if there isn’t already one in place. Our team eventually amassed to a total of 13 people (1 attending, 1 fellow, 1 senior resident, 1 pharmacist, 1 advanced practice nurse, 2 interns, 1 pharmacy resident, 1 pharmacy student, 4 medical students), so that definitely made for some interesting times. We’d hijack two of the rolling computers with us so we could put in orders and look up whatever we needed while we were rounding (something I wish we could do for our own service, but alas).

12-1 p.m.

We usually grabbed lunch during the first few minutes and went to conference/didactics during this time. Lecture topics included anything from arterial blood gases to the use of pressors to nutrition in the ICU.

One of my co-interns made marshmallows from scratch! <3 (Coffee, peppermint + cinnamon sugar! *-*)

One of my co-interns made marshmallows from scratch!

1-6 p.m.

We’d use this time to follow up on anything else pending on our patients, call consults, talk to family members, write notes, update the sign-out sheet, put in morning labs, etc. Somewhere in between, we’d do rapid rounds with our attending to see if there were any other concerns or to follow up on patients who could potentially be downgraded from the unit.

6-7 p.m.

Sign out to the night team and let them know about anything they might need to follow up on or keep a closer eye on overnight!

I’d take off on Wednesday afternoons to see my patients at the office and on Friday afternoons to go to my own conferences/didactics, and I actually managed to go to the gym on a semi-regular basis despite the crazy hours (~72/week), which is a definite plus!

Someone has been low-key trolling on the computers, hahaha. (If you can't tell what I'm talking about, look for the "pwnager" and the "meowdical signout sheet.")

Someone has been low-key trolling on the computers, hahaha. (If you can’t tell what I’m talking about, look for the “pownager” and the “meowdical signout sheet.”)

The downside to the ICU was that so many of our patients were severely ill. Just within even the first couple days, there were several deaths, and I almost teared up while talking to one of my terminally ill patients. (I was asking him how he was doing and he told me he’d lived a good 70 years and had no regrets). I have a hard time with perhaps caring a tad too much, which is why, much as I love working in geriatrics, I don’t think I could sub-specialize in it as I’d likely get too depressed. :[

The intensive care unit is not a setting I will be working in in the future since I’m in a different specialty and also much prefer the outpatient setting, but there was definitely a ton of learning to be had there. Our attendings were awesome with the amount of teaching they did so I managed to learn a lot while I was in the ICU (now if only I could retain everything…).

I was wondering why they were called cows until someone finally told me it stood for "Computer On Wheels."

I was wondering why they were called cows until someone finally told me it stood for “Computer On Wheels.”


  • Is there a field you enjoy working in (or a population you enjoy working with) that you don’t see yourself actually going into?
  • How are your vitamin D levels doing?
  • Do you get seasonal depression?

Permanent link to this article: http://www.fairyburger.com/day-life-intensive-care-unit/

16 comments

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  1. Susie @ Suzlyfe

    MICU is tough–you are doing the hardest, longest work, you rarely see the sun, and your scheudle is THROWN. It is the one rotation that can kind of break Alex down–he is great at it, but the 17 hour days will get to everyone, plus all of the end of life discussions.

    1. Farrah

      After a month of ICU, 2 weeks of inpatient on my own service doesn’t feel quite as insane (still intense, but not as much as it would’ve been otherwise).

      The end of life discussions are tough, but they’re so important to have. I need to get better at em’.

  2. Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine

    Well that’s not a happy rotation 🙁 Super extra stressful 🙁 At least you’re getting it over with!

    1. Farrah

      Agreed! I’m glad I had a great team to work with and that the attendings were all super nice!

  3. Mary

    It’s Medical Mondays 🙂 Sadly, my friends get seasonal depression. I think I got lucky, the colder winter weather inspires the artist in me giving me an excuse to stay at home and create. Wow! What a crazy day Farrah! Those homemade marshmallows look delicious. Thanks for giving me a peek into your day
    Mary recently posted…Challenge MondayMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      All these days without sunlight do make it pretty tough! x_x That’s good that you’re getting creative inside! I definitely feel lucky that I have a lot of indoor activities/hobbies that I enjoy so at least I can indulge in those in my spare time (hahaha) until the weather gets nice again!

  4. Edye

    I love reading your “Day In The Life” posts! I try and get as much vitamin D from the sun as I can, but it’s been so cloudy where I live that I have gotten much. So, I’m trying to eat extra nutritious foods until the sun reappears 🙂
    Edye recently posted…How To Become A Minimalist!My Profile

    1. Farrah

      I feel ya! I’ve been trying to just eat more colorful + nutritious foods (for the most part ;P ) for the time being until the sun starts to show its face again, hehehe.

  5. Diana

    Thank you for this post! I love seeing and hearing about your experiences. Wow. I think icu would be so difficult.

    I previously Taught at a school with severe and profound disabilities. It was heart breaking to see what the children had to experience. It was really tough and depressing

    I do and am majorly affected with SAD! I need sun. And warmth. I feel blah!

    1. Farrah

      Agreed! I have a friend in her Internal Medicine residency who’s seriously thinking of becoming an intensivist–I’m super glad there are different fields out there for everyone, because this one would not be a good fit for me!

      We have a program here that works with and coordinates care with people who have developmental disabilities so I get to work with them sometimes when I’m at the office. It definitely can be really tough and super depressing. :[

      Fingers crossed that the weather gets better/warmer soon!

  6. ShootingStarsMag

    Oh gosh, I could never work in the ICU. I don’t think I’d do well in the health field in general because I care way too much and I’m really emotional. I have very low Vitamin D levels so I take a multi-vitamin that has VitD and then I take another just VitD pill. It’s common where I live, apparently, for people to have low Vitamin D.
    ShootingStarsMag recently posted…Dreadnought by April DanielsMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      I’m with you there. ICU is too emotionally draining for me–I felt like I had to consciously distance myself because it’d be too hard to handle otherwise. It’s part of why, as much as I’d love to subspecialize in geriatrics, I don’t think I really can because I’d get too depressed. (That being said, I like to think a large part of my practice will be working with em’ anyway!)

      I feel ya! I have no idea what my vitamin D levels are but I can’t imagine that they’re at an appropriate level right now!

  7. Kristy from Southern In Law

    Sooo, I had no idea that there was such a thing as open or closed ICUs but now I’ve googled and get it, haha.

    ICU would be SO hard – not only witnessing deaths but also witnessing heartbroken and hurting families.

    My vitamin D levels were previously shocking (TY coeliac disease related absorption issues) but now they’re good!

    And as for a field I enjoy but couldn’t find myself working in, it would probably be something related to foster care, disability support or children. I love working with people in all three categories – but I don’t think I could work full time in them.
    Kristy from Southern In Law recently posted…Recipe: Healthy Warm Potato Salad (Grain Free)My Profile

    1. Farrah

      hehe, it’s one of those things that people usually don’t think about but it does help to cut down on some of the confusion (usually)!

      I think seeing the families hurting just makes it hit home all the more. When I was working in there, I could usually keep it together pretty well but once I saw the families gathering around and in tears, it made it extra difficult. :[

      I’m glad yours are back to normal! I have no idea what the hecks mine is at right now but I can’t imagine that it’s very high, haha.

      That’d definitely be a tough one as well!

  8. Shashi at RunninSrilankan

    As my daughter is hoping to go into medicine – I love reading your med mondays posts to get a glimpse into what her life might be like…thanks Farrah! BTW – sweet co-intern, those marshmallows look wonderful!
    Shashi at RunninSrilankan recently posted…Versatile Tamarind Date PasteMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      Anytime, Shashi! :]! The hours are freakishly long in residency (especially depending on what specialty she decides on), but it does tend to get better afterward! ;P I’m told intern year is the hardest and it gets exponentially better from there, so I’m looking forward to that! 😛

      Agreed! She’s the best! <3

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