What is an ICU Specialist?

22 Jan 2019

In this article, we explore what an Intensive Care specialist does, the skills they need to have to be successful in their role and how their experience can be useful in supporting medicolegal cases.

A specialist in intensive care medicine is usually found in the intensive care or trauma unit with accountability for patients who are critically ill and require high dependency care.  Intensive care specialists or intensivists are highly trained clinicians with specialist training and skills in life support and organ support systems for patients who are critically ill.  They treat a range of patients suffering from a number of life-threatening conditions, including cardiac arrhythmias, respiratory or airway difficulties, acute renal or multiple organ failure, and hypertension/hypotension instability.

The intensivist will be highly trained to be proficient in leading a multi-disciplinary team of specialists across a number of clinical specialisms and in the appropriate escalation of care.  Their clinical skills include the ability to recognise and manage symptoms associated with severe medical, surgical, obstetric and paediatric conditions and to diagnose and treat patients using both invasive and non-invasive diagnostic techniques, as well as closely monitoring and providing optimum treatment to support their vital organs.

The intensivist is an expert in end of life care, the diagnosis of brain death and care and support of the organ donor. They have first rate communication skills, which are a pre-requisite of their role, as they routinely need to ensure effective engagement and communication with patients, relatives, referring clinicians and team members.  An effective intensivist will seek to continuously develop their skills and knowledge to maintain the exceptional level of skill and judgement they are required to use.

Medicolegal Expert Witness

An Intensivist can be instructed on a range of cases, including medical negligence claims for both the claimant and defendant and as a single joint expert, for cases involving intensive care medicine, anaesthetics and post-operative care, including but not limited to:

SepsisIntensive Care MedicineCritical Care
ResuscitationEarly Warning ScoresRecognition of severe illness
Medical Emergency TeamsAnaesthesiaMechanical Ventilation
TraumaEnd of LifeSpinal/nerve block
MeningitisEncephalitisAir Embolism
Central/Arterial LineAcute Kidney DisordersIntravenous Fluids
Hospital Acquired InfectionPulmonary EmbolusLumbar Punctures
Pressure SoresInfection ControlDelayed/Inadequate Treatment