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A girl sits in a hospital bed with her mother by her side as they chat with a doctor.

Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU)

A girl sits in a hospital bed with her mother by her side as they chat with a doctor.

In 1975, Children's National Hospital opened one of the first intensive care units dedicated for children in the United States. While advances in technology have changed the look of our Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), an enduring hallmark of our care is an emphasis on comfort for patients and compassion for the entire family.

Expertise in Critical Care

Learn more about the cardiac, neonatal and neuro intensive care units at Children's National.

Contact Information

For more information about pediatric intensive care, please call 202-476-2010.

Leaders in Critical Care for Children

Children's National serves as the primary referral center in the Washington, D.C., region for pediatric emergency, trauma, cardiac, and critical care. Annually, the PICU treats more than 1,400 patients with a wide variety of conditions from across the United States and abroad, including:

  • Cardiac disease
  • Genetic disorders
  • Multiple organ failure
  • Pulmonary disease
  • Traumatic injury

The PICU is a state-of-the-art facility designed with the family in mind. In addition to creating a child-friendly environment, there are special waiting and resting areas for families so you can stay close by while your child is with us.

Our team offers the most current therapies for cardiac, pulmonary, and neurologic injury. Children's was one of the first pediatric hospitals to use the CereTom Portable CT Scanner, which delivers high-resolution images that help diagnose head and neck injuries. We can even use the scanner at the patient's bedside without having to move the child. This limits the risk to the child because we do not have to move him/her for diagnostic testing.

The ICU's Baier Media Room has a large-format screen that permits seamless, simultaneous display of real time and stored images from multiple sources – improving care and increasing our telehealth capabilities.

Your Child's Care Team

The PICU's multidisciplinary team works side-by-side with families and providers. Our comprehensive approach to care has helped Children's National achieve patient outcomes among the best in the nation. The team includes:

  • Case managers
  • Child life specialists
  • Pediatric intensivists (pediatric intensive care specialists)
  • Pharmacists
  • Respiratory therapists
  • Social workers
  • Specialized pediatric critical care nurses

Your child's care team is also your care team. We recognize that when a child is ill, it affects the entire family, and we do everything possible to meet your needs as well.

Among the support resources for parents and families at Children's National, we created Our Stories as a way for parents to learn from others' past experiences and arm themselves with the knowledge to make it through this challenging process. It can be extremely difficult to face a health issue with your child, but parents who have been there can provide compassion, guide, and comfort.

little boy in hospital bed

Did You Know?

All three of our Intensive Care Units (ICUs) received the Beacon Award from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). The PICU and CICU are designated gold-level and honored with a 3-year designation. The NICU is designated silver-level and has a 2-year designation. The Beacon Award signifies exceptional care through improved outcomes and greater overall satisfaction. For our critical care nurses and clinical teams, the Beacon Award means a positive and supportive work environment with greater collaboration between colleagues and leaders, higher morale and lower turnover. Congratulations to all of our caregivers and leadership teams across our Intensive Care Units for working together to meet and exceed the high standards set forth by the Beacon Award for Excellence.

Patient Stories

  • Winona's Story

    During a routine prenatal appointment at around 16 weeks, Megan and Dennis found out that their unborn daughter had a heart defect. Learn how Yves d'Udekem, M.D., Ph.D., and his team performed a complex surgery on one week old Winona.

What to expect if your child is admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at Children's National Hospital after a burn occurs.

Families at the Center of What We Do

We engage families in every step of their child's care - including as part of the daily rounds in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Here's an overview of how it works.