Making Sense of Acronyms for Hospital Floors and Units

It is quite common to make a trip to the hospital when in need of some medical attention You have also probably felt completely lost and even attacked by the slew of acronyms being thrown your way. As if it isn’t bad enough that you are going through emotional and physical turmoil already, you now have to make sense of random sequences of letters in order to get assistance. Talk about frustrating!

Here are a few of the common acronyms you would mostly likely hear. They describe where patients are placed during, before or after treatment. Keep in mind that some of these may vary a little, from facility to facility, but the following are pretty standard across the Unites States.


If you have ever had a serious injury or illness and need immediate treatment, you were most likely sent to the Emergency Room (sometimes called Emergency Department), abbreviated to ER.

You can arrive at the ER through private transport or by ambulance. The general rule of thumb is that if you can wait to see your doctor, you do not need the ER. This way, a patient suffering a stroke does not have to be pushed behind someone with, say a cold, since the former is obviously in need of attention, unlike the latter.


The Post-Anesthesia Care Unit, is where a patient is taken, post-surgery to recover and be monitored, while the anesthesia wears off. Under standard conditions, this may last up to a couple hours, but when a patient’s condition is not stable, they may be held here longer.

Ofcourse, when there is an unavailability of rooms, patients are kept at the PCAU longer.


The Operation Room is where both inpatient and outpatient operations are performed.


Short for Pre-operative, this is the room a patient is taken in the day of surgery. You are most likely given pre-surgery medication and monitoring before the procedure.

Certain facilities know the Pre-Op as Same-Day Surgery, Outpatient Surgery or Preoperative Holding. The next time you visit a friend going into surgery, you know where to go.


The Intensive Care Unit, known as the ICU is where you are sent for close monitoring. Some facilities call it the Critical Care Unit. There are general less number of patients here, in order for the nurses to individually monitor and provide special attention to the patients.

If you are in need of a ventilator for breathing, you are tended to in the ICU.

When is comes to Intensive Care, there are a few different kinds, they are mentioned below
NICU: This one can be a little confusing. For adult patients, it is referred to as the Neurological Intensive Care Unit and while treating children, it is called the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

In some hospitals, it may also be referred to as the Neurological Critical Care (NCC) for short. This is where you are taken if you have suffered from or are recovering from a serious brain or spinal cord injury or illness. These include strokes, head trauma, spinal cord injuries and seizures.

The Neonatal ICU is where premature babies and infants suffering from serious brain conditions are taken in for treatment and constant monitoring.

PICU: The Pediatric Intensive Care Unit is where children receive critical care. In case of smaller facilities that do not have a Neonatal ICU, infants are treated in the PICU as well.

SICU: Surgical Intensive Care Unit is where you are taken care of when you are in need of surgery or recovering from recent surgery. This is usually the case where an ICU-type monitoring is required for a particular procedure. In case a patient is too unstable to be treated on a regular nursing floor, they are admitted into the SICU.

MICU: When you suffer from a chronic medical illness or are critically ill, you are brought to the Medical ICU. This includes diabetes, COPD and other serious illness.

TICU: The Trauma ICU is where you get treated for blunt impact. If you were involved in a serious fall, had blunt force trauma, were in a car crash or some other high impact accident, you have to be taken to the TICU.

For cardiac issues, such as attacks, strokes, disease or surgery, you are treated in the Cardiac Care Unit


A stepdown unit is where you will find patients who do not need the intensive monitoring that is provided in the ICU but is still not stable enough to be sent to the standard floor. There are various forms of step-downs, but they all mean they all provide the same level of care.


When the inevitable occurs and a patient is near death, the priority switches to the quality of life. Hospice/Palliative care is assigned specifically to see to making the rest of the patient’s living days as restful and comfortable as possible.

The next time you are at the hospital, perhaps you will be more comfortable, now that you know a thing or two about common hospital acronyms!
About author
Deepak Warrier
The author Deepak Warrier has more than 14+ years of experience in Medical Transcription and has good expertise in fact checking and presenting medical and health related information. He has rich experience in handling files prominently related to cardiology, psychology, and general medicine.


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