M Health Fairview has created a new clinic to help COVID-19 survivors and others recover after spending days or weeks in an intensive care unit (ICU).
Called the ICU Survivorship Clinic, the new program addresses a wide range of lasting physical, mental, and emotional challenges that recent research shows can come after extended stays in an ICU. The name for these challenges is post-intensive care syndrome (PICS), and it can last for weeks, months, or even years.
“Recovering in isolation could heighten depression and other mental health disorders faced by COVID survivors,” said M Health Fairview Pulmonologist and Critical Care Physician Nicole Roeder, MD. “When they leave the hospital, they don’t just plug back into their normal life like nothing happened.”
The new clinic takes an innovative, multidisciplinary approach to helping people deal with PICS, whether it was caused by COVID-19 or another severe illness. The clinic brings together critical care doctors, psychologists, pharmacists, physical and occupational therapists, and palliative care specialists to address each person’s needs. Our ICU Survivorship Clinic is the only one of its kind in the Twin Cities – and one of only a small number nationwide.
There are several reasons people can develop PICS after an ICU stay. Because all people who received ICU care were seriously ill, they may have needed life-saving treatments, strong medications, or difficult procedures in order to recover. Some patients also experience delirium, hallucinations, confusion, and nightmares during their time in the ICU. Afterward, getting back to life as usual can be challenging. In addition to physical weakness, fatigue, and trouble breathing, some people may experience PTSD, anxiety, depression, memory loss, and concentration problems.
The ICU Survivorship team starts by studying each patient’s records to better understand that person’s experience and unique needs. Then, they help each person by creating a custom care plan to address those specific issues. Often, helping survivors connect their memories and emotions about their ICU stay to the treatment they received is an important part of the team’s work. The clinic deepens a network other rehabilitation programs M Health Fairview teams have developed to help people recover from COVID-19.
“Our goal at the clinic is to debrief patients about their entire hospital stay, help them work through the anxiety and PTSD that most of them are experiencing, review their advance care directives and also make sure they are seen by a clinical psychologist as a part of a complex multidisciplinary visit,” said M Health Fairview Pulmonologist and Critical Care Physician Sakina Naqvi, MD.
Most of the ICU Survivorship Clinic’s current patients are COVID-19 survivors, but the clinic treats other groups as well. Clinic staff members are also helping develop ICU and COVID-19 support groups so that survivors understand that they are not alone.