Who's Who in the ICU

There are some staff members who work only in the ICU and others who work in the ICU and in other hospital areas as well. It is sometimes confusing and hard to keep track of the many people involved in your child's care.

Physicians likely to be involved in your child's early care after a brain injury are:


Medically treats the nervous system including brain, spinal cord, nerves, and muscles.


Surgically cares for persons with injuries and other problems involving the brain, spinal cord, and nerves.

Trauma Surgeon

Treats individuals with illnesses and injuries requiring surgery. A Pediatric Trauma Surgeon treats only children.


Cares for individuals needing intensive care and close monitoring in the ICU. A Pediatric Intensivist treats only children.


Gives physical rehabilitation, coordinates therapeutic services and treats individuals with conditions that could result in physical limitations.


Treats individuals with illnesses involving the lungs, heart, liver, or stomach.


Treats individuals with injuries or illnesses of the joints, muscles, or bones.

Doctors involved in your child's care may sometimes be referred to by their roles and responsibilities rather than area of specialty training. These roles include:

Attending physician

The physician responsible for your child's overall care. For a child with a brain injury, the attending physician is usually a pediatric trauma surgeon, neurosurgeon, or intensivist.

Consulting physician

Any doctor who helps care for your child can be a consulting physician. Usually, this person has special expertise. For example, a child with a brain injury might also have a broken leg and an orthopedic surgeon (bone doctor) may be a consulting physician.


A doctor who is currently training in a specialty, such as trauma surgery. Residents are supervised by the attending physician.


A doctor who works only in the hospital setting. This person is available 24 hours a day to offer care to the patient and reports back to the attending physician.

Since many doctors are involved in your child's care, it is useful to ask:

  1. Who is in charge of my child's medical care?
  2. Who is most available to update me on a daily basis?
  3. Who is best able to explain information and answer my questions?
  4. How can I contact you?

Nurses provide direct care and monitor your child's condition. They are a link between you and your child's doctors. They also give emotional support to you and your child. They have the overall picture of your child's plan of care and develop daily reports on how your child is doing physically, medically, and emotionally. Nurses caring for your child will change 2-3 times per day.

While their titles vary, it is important to ask:

  1. Who is the nurse in charge of the unit? This person may be called a head nurse, charge nurse, or nursing supervisor.
  2. Who is responsible for the hands-on daily nursing care of your child?
  3. Who can best give you daily updates on your child's condition?
  4. Who should you call for information when you are away from the hospital?

Rehabilitation therapists may be involved in your child's care during his hospital stay. They help position your child, fit splints, exercise muscles and joints, evaluate swallowing reflexes, and evaluate your child's ability to communicate. The therapists help determine how the brain injury has affected your child's ability to move, think, and communicate. They also help prevent complications from being in bed and inactive. Each therapist has special training in a certain area.

Physical therapist — sitting, standing, walking, moving

Occupational therapist — eating, grooming, dressing, thinking, playing

Speech/language therapist — speech, language, communication, swallowing

Respiratory therapist — lungs and airways

As with doctors and nurses, it is important to communicate with therapists treating your child. Ask each therapist to explain: