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UNC Children's critical care experts offer the highest quality care to critically ill or injured childrens.

Pediatric Critical Care

When your child needs the highest level of care and attention for a critical illness or injury, trust UNC Children’s experienced pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) team. Our physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers have the knowledge and skill to help your child achieve the best possible outcome.

Whether your child’s stay is planned—such as after a major surgery—or due to an emergency, your family benefits from our expertise. Every year, UNC Children’s cares for more than 1,000 critically ill children from across North Carolina and the Southeast.

Conditions That May Need PICU Care

UNC Children’s provides expert, multidisciplinary care for a broad spectrum of conditions that affect infants, children and teenagers, including:

  • Post-operative needs
  • Serious infections
  • Severe breathing problems
  • Heart ailments, including critical care related to congenital heart disease and other heart ailments
  • Diabetes-related complications
  • Critical care related to cancer treatment
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Other traumatic injuries, including those from a car accident or non-fatal drowning

We also work closely with the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center to treat children with burn injuries either within the PICU or within our state-of–the-art Burn Center.

If your newborn needs intensive care, s/he will receive specialized care from neonatologists in the Newborn Critical Care Center.

For information on the research and educational activities of our faculty, please visit the Department of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine at the UNC School of Medicine.

Care Team

Your Pediatric Intensive Care Team

Your child will get round-the-clock care from doctors, nurses and therapists who specialize in helping critically ill or injured kids. Our staff includes:

  • Pediatric intensivists – Pediatricians with additional training and expertise that can diagnose and treat children with serious illnesses and injuries; there’s always a pediatric intensivist caring for your child in the PICU
  • Pediatric pharmacists – Prepare medications and intravenous (IV) solutions
  • Respiratory therapists – Help your child breathe more easily
  • Occupational therapists – Help your child better perform daily tasks, like dressing and eating
  • Physical therapists – Encourage muscle development
  • Speech-language therapists – Help your child speak or eat more easily
  • Child life specialist – Helps your ill or injured child and any siblings adjust to the hospital and share their feelings through play and other activities
  • Dietitians – Makes sure your child get the nutrition he or she needs
  • Nurses – Monitor and care for your child and offer support and education to family members

Your child may also be treated by physicians from UNC Children’s many pediatric specialties, such as cardiology or pulmonology, depending on his or her specific condition.

You’re Part of the Team

At N.C. Children’s Hospital, you’re an important part of your child’s care team.

You’re encouraged to visit throughout the day, be present for bedside procedures, and attend daily rounds—dedicated times for your medical care team to discuss your child’s care plan—to learn about your child’s medical needs. Your love and encouragement can ease your child’s anxiety and speed his or her recovery.

Our nurses are always available to answer questions and offer support.


Support for PICU Parents & Families

Because your family is at the center of the pediatric intensive care team, you’ll find a variety of services and programs to keep you engaged and feeling supported. Take advantage of:

  • Regular family meals and events
  • Dedicated social workers – Connect you with community resources and information, help you plan for your child’s homecoming and provide emotional support
  • Pediatric chaplain – Available 24/7 to offer emotional and spiritual support throughout any part of a child’s hospitalization
  • Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill – Provides a “home away from home” for families of children receiving care at UNC Medical Center
  • Grant-funded parking and meal assistance for families in need
  • A Supportive Care Team focused on relieving suffering and improving quality of life

Facilities & Services

PICU Facilities & Services

With 20 beds, the PICU is one of the largest intensive care units for children in North Carolina. Your child will stay in a private room to reduce the risk of infection and provide privacy for your family. Each room includes at least one window, monitoring equipment, and a sleeping area for a parent or other caregiver.

Other nearby amenities include:

  • PICU waiting room
  • The Family Resource Room, just outside the PICU, where you can research current medical literature about your child’s condition or treatments
  • A Ronald McDonald Family Room, which includes an eat-in kitchen with a fully stocked pantry, free Wi-Fi access, comfortable seating, and television, books and magazines

Advanced Therapies for Critically Ill Children

UNC Children’s PICU offers advanced therapies, including:

  • Advanced respiratory support, including high-frequency oscillation and jet ventilation – Help your child breathe
  • Renal replacement therapies – Filters your child’s blood while his or her kidneys heal or while s/he waits for a new kidney
  • Extracorporeal life support (ECLS/ECMO) – Supports the lungs, heart, or both in cases of life-threatening respiratory or cardiac disease
  • Ventricular assist device (VAD) – A pump that partially or completely supports heart function in a child with a weakened or failing heart

Find Family-Centered Care at UNC

At UNC Children’s and N.C. Children’s Hospital, you’ll find friendly, compassionate staff who are experts at working with children and families. We’ll do our best to ease your anxiety, help you understand your child’s medical condition so you can make informed choices about their care, and offer whatever additional support you need. You can help make your experience go as smoothly as possible by exploring our patients and visitors section to learn about:

Is this an Emergency?

If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please dial 911.

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