Intensive Care Specialists are often referred to as Intensivists, ICU Consultants or Internal Medicine Specialists. They provide organ support or life support to patients who are critically ill and require continuous monitoring. Intensivists primarily work with patients who are suffering from cardiac arrest, multiple organ failure, airway or respiratory difficulties, acute renal failure and hypertension instability, just to name a few. Patients are either admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) by their specialists, the emergency department or after a major surgery for monitoring.
ICU Consultants are responsible for coordinating patient care in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and will consult with other specialists on the best course of treatment. They have completed training in intensive care medicine such as anaesthetics, cardiology or emergency medicine and can further specialise as a Newborn Intensive Care Specialist or Paediatric Intensive Care Specialist.
They need to have a broad base of knowledge on the following areas (note that this list is not exhaustive):
They are trained to diagnose and treat critical illnesses and injuries and must be experts in using various heart monitoring equipment, breathing machines (e.g. ventilators), nasogastric tubes, intravenous lines and other health equipment.
Intensive Care Specialists usually work in hospitals and are assisted by a staff of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals.
Intensive Care Specialists must first complete a medical degree and obtain a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS). They must then undertake additional training at theCollege of Intensive Care Medicine (CICM). It can take over 14 years to become fully qualified.
Steps for Becoming an Intensive Care Specialist in Australia
See the College of Intensive Care Medicine (CICM) for more information.
All doctors that are trained in Australia or overseas, must be registered with the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) to practise in Australia and with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), which provides administrative and policy support to the National Health Practitioners Boards.
A typical day for an Intensive Care Specialist is busy and challenging. It starts with ward rounds where all the patients under their care are examined, assessed and individual treatment plans are put in place. They conduct a second round of patient reviews again in the afternoon, however, patients with complex illnesses are seen as often as required. Intensivists need to have stamina and endurance to cope with long days that are full of intellectual and emotional challenges. They also need to be flexible in their work schedule and be willing to work on-call hours from time to time although opportunities for working flexible hours are available.
They must be able to communicate effectively and build strong relationships with patients, their relatives and their colleagues. The must be compassionate, self-motivated and be able to think quickly and work well under pressure.
Managing failures in treatment and supporting grieving relatives are the most challenging and emotionally draining aspects of this profession. However, working as part of an interdisciplinary team to help treat and save patients’ lives is very rewarding.