Critical care specialists (or intensivists) are trained to provide emergency medical services for patients in critical condition - many intensivists can be found providing care within intensive care units.

About Critical Care Medicine

The medical specialty of critical care, or intensive care, provides emergency medical care to patients suffering from life-threatening complications and injuries. Critical care specialists, also known as intensivists, are board certified physicians that also have certification in the subspecialty of critical care medicine or other specialties. Critical care specialists provide around-the-clock care in highly-stressful situations within intensive care units (ICUs) in hospitals or trauma centers to the most seriously injured or ill patients.

Intensivists are trained to provide time-restrained emergency medical care, life support and organ support, while also interacting with the patient’s family during emotionally challenging times. Intensivists will provide care from the point of first contact, working swiftly to stabilize and diagnose the patient and perform any life-saving procedures. After an initial diagnosis, critical care specialists will diagnose the level of pain a patient is in, and then provide the appropriate amount of medication to help stabilize the patient’s pain level. After stabilizing and comforting the patient, intensivists will provide any further care necessary, monitor the patient’s progress, and create detailed reports that will allow other physicians to properly treat the patient once they have left the ICU.

Critical care specialists are typically the first to interact with the patient’s family post-diagnosis, so it is vital they have compassionate communication skills, as this is a very stressful time for both the patient and their family. Aside from providing care to patients, critical care specialists must also manage end-of-life care in certain situations.

Critical Care Medicine Education & Training

Training to become a critical care specialist, also referred to as an intensivist, varies from doctor to doctor. Although all are required to complete a medical degree and residency program, there are a variety of different specialties that can result in a career as an intensivist. These include internal medicine, critical care medicine, general surgery, pediatrics, anesthesiology and pulmonology, among others.

Because critical care specialists face a variety of different illnesses and disorders, these physicians often perform multiple residencies and/or fellowships, and are usually board certified in more than one medical specialty. Critical care specialists must have knowledge of pharmacology, physiology, cardiology, neurology, various monitoring techniques, organ support and replacement systems, resuscitation, and many other time-restrained medical techniques and procedures. Many critical care specialists seek board certification from the American Board of Internal Medicine. the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA), the American Board of Emergency Medicine or the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG). As with other physicians, critical care specialists must complete continuing medical education requirements; they are also required to seek state licensure prior to practicing.