As few as 5 years ago, demand for intensive care unit (ICU) beds typically forced patient transfers to general care floors where the level of care needed wasn’t available. But multiple economic, workforce, and health care reform issues have pressed the healthcare industry to meet such demand with innovative care management strategies. One creative, cost-effective approach that’s emerged and continues to develop is the progressive care unit (PCU).

As described in Part 11 of this 6-part series exclusively endorsed by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), PCUs provide care to stable, critically ill patients of varying acuities with a high potential for life-threatening changes. Since general care units can’t provide the continuous monitoring, frequent assessment, and specific acute and skilled care that progressive care patients need,2,3 these patients are best described as “stable, critically ill.”

PCUs range in service from mixed medical/surgical patient populations to very...

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