Get to Know Stony Brook Children's Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU)

Critical care medicine is a special discipline that brings together healthcare professionals to help seriously ill patients. Stony Brook Children’s pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) has a highly skilled healthcare team led by Margaret Parker, MD, who was recently named a Master of Critical Care Medicine by the Society of Critical Care Medicine. Here are her answers to some common questions about our PICU. 

Why is it so important to have a dedicated pediatric intensive care unit?
When a child is critically ill or injured, time really counts. It’s vital to have a group of pediatric experts, skilled in different subspecialties, available to take care of any need a child may have. Children are not just small adults. They are different in the diseases they get and the way they react to them. It’s important for these children to have fast access to medical professionals with the expertise to address whatever is wrong with that child, promptly and skillfully.

Who are your support team members?
We have six intensivists – who are doctors specifically trained in pediatric critical care, as well as a nurse practitioner dedicated to our PICU. There are also approximately 40 specially trained staff nurses caring for our patients. Each intensivist functions as the captain of a ship, coordinating the care of critically ill children. Other physicians, such as surgeons, oncologists, nephrologists and other specialists may be involved in the child’s care. But, it’s the intensivists who take the input from each of the specialists and develop the specific plan of care for that child.

What are the most common reasons for children to be in a PICU?
We frequently see children who have just had surgery, especially complex surgeries. We also take care of trauma victims and children with illnesses such as pneumonia (which is common in children), diabetes, sepsis, and seizures, for example.

How important is family involvement at Stony Brook’s PICU?
Extremely important. When a child is sick in an unfamiliar environment, they’re often afraid, so parents can provide a lot of the comfort a child needs. Family members and other visitors are welcome 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and one parent can stay overnight in the child’s room.
We consider parents an important part of the child’s care team, as parents know their children better than anyone. We include the parents on our rounds and in the decision-making process.
We also have a Ronald McDonald Family Room, which is a wonderful respite place where family members can get something to eat, do laundry, take a shower and use the Internet. This family room gives parents a chance to connect with other parents who have children in our hospital, and to take some time to care of their own needs, without having to leave the hospital. The services of our Child Life Specialists are also available to patients in the PICU and their family members.

What makes Stony Brook Children’s PICU unique?
Our group of support team members has been together for years. We work together like a family to take care of the children and their families, addressing every aspect of the child’s care as well as the personal and psychosocial needs of the entire family.
Another important benefit of Stony Brook Children’s PICU is our technology. We have continuous, state-of-the-art monitoring for our patients, and have everything we need here to provide dialysis, high frequency oscillatory ventilation (breathing machine), support for kidney transplant recipients, and different types of sedation for children who will need to undergo painful procedures.
As part of an academic medical center, we have our own specialists, both on our own critical care team and throughout the hospital. These specialists treat patients and help to educate future generations of doctors. We also participate in numerous research studies to improve our own practices, as well as to further practices that can have an impact on medicine worldwide.

Learn more at or call (631) 444-KIDS.