Sep 21, 2023

What Does a Critical Care Medicine Specialist Do?


A critical care medicine specialist works within a subspecialty of internal medicine, focusing on the diagnosis, management, and treatment of clinical problems related to extreme human diseases. This concentrates on the care of critically ill patients – those at risk of organ failure and clinical deterioration, as well as individuals needing close monitoring or resuscitation. Physicians who practice in this field, often called critical care medicine specialists or intensivists, provide life-saving medical attention, intensive monitoring, and urgent life support care. They work with an interdisciplinary team as patients’ cases are often connected to different medical specialties.

They are knowledgeable of different conditions and proficient in performing various medical tests. Also, they are competent in non- and invasive techniques, technological procedures, and devices in the intensive care unit (ICU).

More importantly, critical care specialists are trained to handle complicated issues such as advance directives, end-of-life decisions, and estimating prognosis. They learn to counsel patients and their families in uncertain and challenging situations.

critical care medicine specialist speaking with doctor

What Does it Mean to Be a Critical Care Medicine Specialist?

Critical care medicine specialists often work in hospital-based settings like the ICU. They also have access to laboratories, investigative, radiology, and other vital departments.

Like all physicians, no two days are similar for these specialists. Generally, their day-to-day roles are to:

  • Recommend lab tests and diagnostic procedures.
  • Analyze and record test results and medical information.
  • Consult and coordinate with other medical professionals.
  • Examine patients to determine the extent of their conditions.
  • Manage deteriorating or severely ill patients outside of the ICU.
  • Prescribe remedial and therapeutic treatment.
  • Recommend the transport and retrieval of critical patients.
  • Refer hospital admissions and other specialists.
  • Report contagious diseases to government or health officials.
  • Support patients, family members, and organ donors.

Education and Training for a Critical Care Specialist

To be a critical care specialist, you need to complete your medical school, residency, and fellowship.

Your chosen residency will depend on your goals and interests. Options can include anesthesiology, emergency medicine, internal medicine, orthopedic surgery, and pediatrics.

After residency, you will need to take on a fellowship in critical care medicine. This can vary depending on the specialty of residency you completed – some can last for about a year, while others can go for about three years. If you combine this with subspecialty training (e.g., pulmonary medicine), a three-year fellowship is required for you to be eligible for certification in both fields.

There are also other options should you choose a different subspecialty. For example, you can go on a two-year fellowship in critical care after your residency in internal medicine. Another option is to go on a two-year fellowship in general internal medicine before taking on one year of critical care medicine training.

Becoming a critical care medicine specialist can take about seven to nine years. Once you complete the required training, you will be jointly certified in critical care medicine by the American Boards of Anesthesiology, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, and Surgery.

To be a successful intensivist, you need the knowledge, skills, and passion for critical care and clinical medicine. It won’t always be easy, as you’ll have to effectively handle crucial situations. Likewise, you’ll need to develop your communication and interpersonal skills, and find the balance between professionalism and humanism.

If you need guidance with your clinical clerkship, C.H.H.A can help. We specialize in obtaining the clinical experiences necessary to match you into a residency. Our expert team helps students – both local and international – to get hands-on training that will make them competitive in the U.S. residency application.

Contact us today to learn more.

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