PICU vs NICU: A Comprehensive Comparison in 2023


Post Content

    Welcome to another exciting article comparing a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

    After reading this piece on PICU vs NICU, you will better grasp the distinction between a PICU and a NICU, the types of patient care available, and more.

    This article discusses the following and more:

    PICU vs NICU – Overview
    Patient Categories
    Patients’ Care Levels
    PICU vs NICU Nurses
    Working in PICU vs NICU

    So, let’s roll!

    Post Content

      PICU vs NICU – Overview

      From MRIs to MREs, MDs to DOs, and what a view, the medical industry is recognized for its acronyms.

      PICU and NICU are two abbreviations frequently used in a children’s hospital.

      The NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) is a section of the hospital dedicated completely to the treatment of infants.

      PICU vs NICU

      Children are referred to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) when they require the highest pediatric care.

      The terms PICU and NICU are often wrongly interchanged.

      A Neonatal Intensive Care Unit-NICU is a hospital section for newborns who have recently been born and are experiencing complications.

      The NICU admits newborns born prematurely (23-24 weeks is deemed viable) up to 40 weeks of gestational age.

      The PICU, or Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, on the other hand, admits infants not admissible to the NICU, as well as all other children up to 18 years (some up to 21) or whatever age the pediatric hospital decides to admit.

      Moreover, patients with chronic conditions (cystic fibrosis or special needs children) may stay at their children’s hospital well into their 20s, blurring even this age cut-off.

      Patient Categories

      To provide specialized care for the little patients, the NICU combines innovative technology with qualified health care personnel.

      These are the most common types of babies admitted to the NICU:

      • Untimely (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy)
      • Have a birth weight lower than 5.5 pounds
      • Have a medical problem that necessitates extra attention

      Preterm birth affects over half of all babies born in the United States, and many of these kids have low birth weights.

      Multiples, such as twins, triplets, and other multiples, are frequently admitted to the NICU because they are born earlier and smaller than single-birth kids.

      Babies with medical difficulties such as heart problems, infections, or birth deformities are also cared for in the NICU.

      For newborns who aren’t as sick but still require specialized nursing care, NICUs may feature intermediate or continuing care areas.

      PICU vs NICU - Patient Category

      The Pediatric Intensive Treatment Unit (PICU), on the other hand, is a hospital department that provides the highest degree of medical care to unwell children.

      The PICU differs from other parts of the hospital because it allows for specialized nurse care and constant monitoring of vital signs such as heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure.

      The PICU is for extremely ill children who require intensive care and whose medical needs cannot be handled on the hospital’s main medical floors, such as children with:

      • Severe breathing problems from asthma
      • Serious infections
      • Certain heart conditions
      • Complications from diabetes

      Patients’ Care Levels

      The description of patient care levels in a PICU is patient-centered, but it can also describe a unit.

      A high dependency unit, for example, is a level 1 critical care space for children who require more attention than can be supplied on the ward (HDU).

      Many district general hospitals (DGHs) will be able to deliver level 2 care without difficulty for a length of time.

      On the other hand, levels 3 and 4 care are usually exclusively provided by specialized PICUs.

      In the NICU, the description refers to the unit’s capabilities.

      As previously stated, some DGHs will be able to give level 1 care for a limited time but will only be required to manage level 2 patients for a limited time.

      These children are moved to NICU centers that specialize in neonatal intensive care.

      The table below explains each level of patient care:

      PICU vs NICU Nurses

      A NICU Nurse’s tasks include caring for infants’ basic requirements, such as diaper changes and feeding, and arranging medical treatments with the NICU Physician.

      Other responsibilities include:

      • Premature and critically unwell newborn infants receive round-the-clock care
      • Taking care of an infant’s basic needs, such as feeding and changing diapers
      • Inserting intravenous lines, performing testing, and delivering drugs
      • Providing medical assistance to the NICU Physicians during surgeries and treatments
      • Using and modifying specialized medical equipment
      • Developing nursing strategies and assessing the efficacy of treatments
      • Assisting parents and family members who are worried about their sick newborns
      • Supporting parents and family members while also training them to care for their infant at home

      On the other hand, PICU Nurses are in charge of assessing, treating, and monitoring young patients 18 years or younger suffering from acute, life-threatening illnesses.

      Pediatric ICU Nurses collaborate with other healthcare professionals to provide age-appropriate care. Common nursing responsibilities include:

      • Measuring blood pressure
      • Monitoring oxygen levels
      • Tracking urine output
      • Inserting IVs
      • Changing wound dressings
      • Delivering antibiotics
      • Modifying ventilators
      • Evaluating test results
      PICU vs NICU Nurses

      Because every symptom matters, PICU Nurses must record patient information concisely and precisely.

      Pediatric Intensive Care Nurses also address caregivers’ queries and educate them on managing their child’s health condition.

      It is critical to follow all HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) requirements and safety standards.


      Both the PICU and the NICU can improve pediatric and neonatal care quality if well-organized and can efficiently treat severe consequences of high-burden diseases, including diarrhea, severe malaria, and respiratory distress, with low-cost therapies.

      As a result, working in a PICU or NICU is satisfying and fulfilling.



      PICU vs NICU Intensive Care Levels

      Intensive Care Unit Classification

      NICU Nurse Job Description

      PICU Nurse Job Description

      Nurse Beth

      Nurse Beth, Registered nurse (RN). Has more than 10 years of experience helping people get started in their nursing careers. She is an expert and helping people pass their CNA, NCLEX RN, NCLEX PN, HESI A2, and TEAS exams.

      NurseCode Editorial Process

      The nurse code team only utilizes the highest quality resources. Including academic institutions, recognized publications and peer-reviewed studies. All of our articles are vetted for fact-checking in order to maintain integrity and to provide reliable, accurate and trustworthy information. Read more about our editorial process here.

      Leave a Comment

      Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

      Scroll to Top