Intensive Care Medicine or Critical Care Medicine is a branch of medicine concerned with the provision of life support or organ support systems in patients who are critically ill and who usually require intensive monitoring.
Critical care medicine is provided by a team of Physicians, Nurses, Respiratory Care professionals and Pharmacists who have special training in critical care medicine. The physicians are referred to as intensivists. To become Intensivists, physicians who complete their primary residency training in internal medicine, anesthesiology, or surgery must pursue additional fellowship training in critical care medicine. Board certification is available through all three specialty boards.
Intensivist physicians with primary training in internal medicine sometimes pursue combined fellowship training in another subspecialty such as pulmonary medicine, cardiology, infectious disease, or nephrology.
The Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) is a well-regarded multi-professional society for all intensive care practitioners, including intensivists.
Medical research has repeatedly demonstrated that ICU care provided by intensivists leads to better outcomes and is more cost effective. As a result, the Leapfrog Group has made a primary recommendation that all ICU patients be managed or co-managed by a dedicated intensivist who is exclusively responsible for patients in one ICU.
Unfortunately, there is a critical shortage of intensivists in the United States and most patients hospitalized in the intensive care units are not cared for by specially trained intensivists.