Development of a special care unit for chronically critically ill patients

Heart Lung. 1991 Jan;20(1):45-51.


Intensive care units (ICUs) are recognized as one of the most expensive services provided by hospitals. Within these ICUs are a growing population of patients whose stays are extensively prolonged because of complications or underlying chronic health conditions that are exacerbated by a critical illness. These patients can be described as "chronically critically ill" and are costly to hospitals both in terms of actual dollars and in terms of the burden of care to nurses and physicians. This article describes the creation of a special care unit (SCU) designed specifically to meet the needs of chronically critically ill patients. The SCU environment is composed of a physical design that accommodates limited technology and care aimed at family involvement and rehabilitation, a case management practice model, and a shared governance management model. This structure is in contrast to traditional ICU environments, which include physical layouts that allow for high technology and close monitoring of patients, a primary nursing delivery system, and a bureaucratic management model. A research project to compare the effects of the SCU with the effects of the traditional ICUs on nurse and patient outcomes is described.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chronic Disease
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Female
  • Hospital Units / methods*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Care / methods