The Intensivist is a physician who specialises in the resuscitation, stabilisation and treatment of patients who have suffered severe and lifethreatening illnesses or injuries and acute organ failure. The practice of the speciality includes the provision of organ system support, the investigation, diagnosis, and treatment of acute illness, systems management and patient safety, ethics, end-of-life care, and the support of families.
The intensivist is a multidisciplinary role and the physician may come from a background in internal medicine, anaesthesia, emergency medicine, general surgery or paediatrics and will have completed additional training in intensive care medicine.
Intensive Care Units may be general or dedicated to a specific medical speciality.
Surgical ICU (SICU): A specialised service in larger hospitals that provides inpatient care for critically ill patients from surgical departments. As opposed to other ICUs, the care is managed by surgeons trained in critical-care.
Trauma Intensive Care Unit (TICU): These are found only in hospitals certified in Trauma and have a dedicated Trauma Emergency Department equipped with a team of surgeons, nurses, respiratory therapists, and radiological staff.
Neurological Intensive Care Unit ( NeuroICU): Patients here are treated for aneurysms, brain tumors, stroke, rattlesnake bites and post surgical patients who have undergone various neurological surgeries and require hourly neurological exams.
Coronary Care Unit: Also known as Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) or Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU), this ICU caters to patients specifically with cardiac disorders.
Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU): A specialised ambulance with the staff and equipment to provide on-scene Advanced Life Support resuscitation and intensive care during transport. These type of ICUs are generally for people who are being transferred between hospitals and not from home to a hospital. In the Anglo American model of pre-hospital care MICUs are generally paramedic crewed. In the European model Mobile ICU crews are usually a specialized nurse and an emergency medicine physician.
Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU): please review information about these on our Paediatric Intensivist page.
Intensivist roles are hospital based and usually in the larger secondary and tertiary care hospitals. Working patterns vary according to the institution and can be a standard working week with on call duties or a shift system.
Intensivist shortages are common in most countries and there are usually many roles available worldwide.
Intensivist candidates have usually completed postgraduate training in Internal Medicine or Anaesthesia and followed this by a Fellowship or specialist training in Intensive Care Medicine. Emergency Medicine physicians and general and orthopaedic surgeons who have undertaken specialist training in Intensive Care Medicine can work in Surgical and Trauma Intensive Care Units.
Dual Specialist or board certification in Intensive Care Medicine as well as the original speciality is essential.