What Does a Critical Care Medicine Doctor Do?

Reviewed on 11/9/2021

A critical care medicine doctor, or intensivist, is a doctor that treats critically ill and injured patients (trauma victims and patients with multiple organ dysfunction). They often work in an intensive care unit (ICU) in a hospital or in sub-specialties such as care of premature or critically ill newborns in the neonatal ICU (NICU) or care of critically ill and injured children in the pediatric ICU (PICU).
A critical care medicine doctor, or intensivist, is a doctor that treats critically ill and injured patients (trauma victims and patients with multiple organ dysfunction). They often work in an intensive care unit (ICU) in a hospital or in sub-specialties such as care of premature or critically ill newborns in the neonatal ICU (NICU) or care of critically ill and injured children in the pediatric ICU (PICU).

A critical care medicine doctor (sometimes called an “intensivist”) is a type of specialist with specific expertise in the diagnosis, treatment, and support of critically ill and injured patients, such as trauma victims and patients with multiple organ dysfunction.

A critical care medicine doctor is also well-versed in the technological procedures and devices used in intensive care settings, as well as issues such as

  • end-of-life decisions,
  • advance directives,
  • estimating prognosis, and
  • counseling of patients and their families.

A critical care medicine physician also coordinates patient care among the primary physician, critical care nurses and staff, and other specialists. These doctors may also work with dietitians and dietetic students, social workers, and nursing students. 

Where Do Critical Care Medicine Doctors Treat Patients?

Most physicians trained in critical care medicine work in hospital-based settings, usually in intensive care units (ICUs). 

  • Within internal medicine, critical care medicine training is most commonly coupled with a pulmonary medicine fellowship since pulmonologists frequently oversee care of patients in intensive care units. 
  • However, other internal medicine physicians, such as cardiologists and general internists practicing hospital medicine, as well as doctors trained in emergency medicine, may train in critical care medicine to facilitate their work with severely ill patients.

Critical care medicine doctors often work in an intensive care unit in a hospital. They may also work in sub-specialties of intensive care such as: 

  • Care of premature or critically ill newborns in the neonatal ICU (NICU)
  • Care of critically ill and injured children in the pediatric ICU (PICU)
  • Care of adult cardiac diseases in the coronary care unit (CCU)
  • Perioperative care, trauma care, and care of multiple organ dysfunction in the surgical ICU (SICU)
  • Care of neurological and neurosurgical patients in the neuroscience ICU (neuro ICU)

What Type of Training Is Required for an Intensivist?

The critical care medicine specialty requires additional fellowship training following completion of primary residency training in internal medicine, anesthesiology, pediatrics, surgery, or emergency medicine.

Fellowship training requirements are different for each primary specialty. Board certification in critical care medicine is available through all four specialty boards.

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Reviewed on 11/9/2021
References
Image Source: iStock Images

https://freida.ama-assn.org/specialty/critical-care-medicine-im

https://www.acponline.org/about-acp/about-internal-medicine/subspecialties-of-internal-medicine/critical-care-medicine