Cardiac nurses in the Corrigan Minehan Heart Center at Massachusetts General Hospital offer support and guidance during a family member's open-heart surgery or transplantation. 

Visitor Guide to Cardiac Surgery

The nurses in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit realize that having a loved one in a critical care unit can be a confusing and anxious time for the entire family. Many families tell us that the things they need most while coping with the seriousness of a family members illness are:

  • Information to know what and why things are being done for the patient and to have questions answered openly
  • Assurance to know that the best possible care is being given to the patient
  • Proximity to be close to your loved ones

As nurses we can help you meet these needs. We will share information about your family member with you in understandable terms, provide expert compassionate nursing care for your family member and help you be physically and emotionally near your loved one. Please let us know what we can do to help you through this difficult time.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I visit?

After you receive word that the surgery is over, visit the Blake 8 family waiting room to arrange your first visit. Let the secretary know you have arrived by picking up the house phone in the waiting room. As soon as the patient has been admitted and stabilized, you will be invited in to visit by the patient's nurse.

While your family member is in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit, we would like you to feel welcome to visit. Our visiting hours are flexible based on your needs and those of the patient. Please call before you leave home to discuss your visiting plans with the nurse caring for the patient. We will give you guidance on appropriate visiting times for your family member based on the medical and nursing care plans for the day.

Our suggestion is that you visit between the hours of 10:00 am and 10:00 pm and plan your visits to last approximately 15 to 20 minutes. The frequency of visits and number of visitors per visit should be decided together with your nurse, always keeping in mind the needs of the patient. The unit is closed to visitors between the hours of 6:00 am to 8:00 am and 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm, during which medical and nursing rounds occur.

Small children are usually not encouraged to visit the critical care units, although exceptions will be made in some circumstances.

Please realize that on occasions you may be asked to wait when you arrive due to the medical or nursing care needs of the patient. We appreciate your understanding if your visit must be delayed or shortened, and we will make every attempt to communicate the reason to you.

What should I do when I visit?

Critically ill patients and those awakening from anesthesia benefit from being reoriented to the day and time. Touching the patient, making eye contact, and telling the patient news from home can be assuring.

If your family member has a breathing tube in place, he will not be able to speak to you. Although not easy, you will be able to communicate through lip-reading, sign language and note writing. This is often a frustrating time for the family and patient during which your nurse may be able to help you communicate. Once the breathing tube has been removed, the patient will be able to speak.

Families of patients that stay longer in the critical care unit may be able to assist the patient with meals or become involved in personal care.

Resources for family members

There is a restroom located to the left of the hallway leading to the family waiting room. A pay phone is located in the family waiting room with telephone number 617-880-8006. If you anticipate that other family members or friends will need to reach you while you are at the hospital, asking them to call you on this number would be the best way for them to reach you. Cafeterias are located in the basement of the White Building and on the lobby level of the Wang Ambulatory Care Center.

If you would like some time outside the hospital, you are within a 10 minute walk of Boston Common, the Public Garden and Newbury Street. An assortment of restaurants are located along Cambridge and Charles Streets. Ask for directions in the White Lobby of the hospital.

Can I use a cell phone?

Please turn your cell phone off before entering the Blake 8 Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and the Ellison 8 Cardiac Step Down Unit. The cell phone can interfer with the equipment being used on our patients.

What is all that noise and equipment?

When you enter the critical care unit, it may be uncomfortable to see so much equipment and hear so many strange noises around your family member. The sophisticated equipment in the intensive care unit and the skilled nurses that utilize it provide the best care possible for our patients. You will be seeing cardiac monitors, ventilators, a variety of tubes and numerous IV lines.

Important Phone Numbers

SICU: 617-724-4410 
Social Service:
Parking Office:
Patient Care Representative: