What is an intensive care physician?

An intensive care physician (or intensivist) is a doctor who specialises in caring for critically ill patients.

Intensive care physicians work within intensive care units, which generally operate in major hosptials with access to all types of bedside, laboratory, radiology and other investigative departments.

What do intensive care physicians treat?

An intensive care physician treats patients who have any medical or surgical illness or operation that requires critical care support – generally life threatening major illnesses or operations where high level life support is required.

  • Surgical intensive care
  • Medical intensive care
  • Paediatric intensive care
  • Research

Treatments and procedures

Treatment generally involves a multidisciplinary team. The intensive care specialist will direct patient management and ensure the patient is medically controlled as well as possible while other specialty teams intervene as appropriate.

Some common procedures include:

  • Intubation
  • Ventilation
  • Dialysis
  • Percutaneous tracheostomy
  • Central venous access
  • Arterial cannulation

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What to expect from an intensive care physician

Patients in intensive care units are intensively monitored, supported and treated by teams of highly skilled doctors, nurses and allied health professionals.

Patients are usually sedated or unconscious. They tend to have numerous monitors attached to them.

Each patient usually has a dedicated nurse who manages and monitors on a minute-to-minute basis.

If there is any difficulty with a patient the doctor is notified and reviews the patient.

Even the least ill intensive care pateint will be seen several times per day by the managing doctors.

Training and qualifications



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This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If in doubt, HealthEngine recommends consulting with a registered health practitioner.

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