Professor David Wald created the animated films to help people understand the critical care a patient is likely to receive — at a time when families have been left “stranded and detached” by the restrictions on hospital visiting.
Professor Wald, a consultant cardiologist who has volunteered to work additional nursing shifts in the ICU at the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel, came up with the idea in March while recovering from Covid.
He decided to adapt animations he had previously made to ensure patients, especially those without English as a first language, were able to consent to medical procedures. The films are available in multiple languages.
He said: “It was inspired by a friend calling me, saying their father had been admitted to intensive care and they didn’t know what was going on – and, by the way, what does mechanical ventilation mean?”
The animations explain five key areas: the ICU environment, the wide range of staff involved and principles of treatment; mechanical ventilation; tracheostomy airways; induced coma; and covid treatments.
About 40 critical care units are registered to use the animations, which are being made free until May on the Explain My Procedure website. The initiative has been endorsed by the Intensive Care Society.
Professor Wald said the aim was “to give families an understanding of ICU at a time they cannot see it first hand, so that when they have the opportunity to speak to the doctors and nurses they are that much more informed”.
He said initial feedback from several families had been positive. “One of the comments I got was that families often feel they need to pretend they understand what doctors are saying, but these animations actually made them understand.”
Dr Julia Hadley, a consultant in intensive care medicine at the Royal London, said: “This is an extremely valuable resource which we are very excited to share with the families and friends of patients on the unit.
“At a time when they are unable to visit, it should really help their understanding of a range of aspects of critical care.
“Looking beyond the pandemic, these animations have great potential to help increase the public’s understanding of what goes on in this part of the hospital.”