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Critical care medicine is a clinical specialty devoted to the care of critically ill or injured adult patients who require intensive monitoring and advanced interventions and organ system support. Critical care is provided by a diverse team of health care professionals (led by physicians) who work in the highly specialized area of the Hospital known as the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). The physicians who specialize in critical care medicine are often referred to as intensivists.
Intensivists are first trained and certified in one of these other medical specialties -- anesthesiology, emergency medicine, internal medicine or surgery -- and then receive additional specialized training and certification in critical care. (Note: Neonatology has its own critical care specialists as well, described in "NICU" section of this website). Some intensivists also have a third specialty, such as pulmonary medicine or cardiology.
Here's how the American College of Physicians -- the national professional organization representing internal medicine -- describes what intensivists do:
The critical care specialist (intensivist) may be the primary provider of care or a consultant. The intensivist needs to be competent not only in a broad range of conditions common among critically ill patients but also with the technological procedures and devices used in the intensive care setting. The care of critically ill patients raises many complicated ethical and social issues, and the intensivist must be competent in areas such as end-of-life decisions, advance directives, estimating prognosis, and counseling of patients and their families.
Intensivists are highly trained to understand and manage the wide range of life-threatening conditions that may occur in adults, from common illnesses and traumatic injuries to rare diseases and complications. Often, several body systems are affected by critical illness or injury and need to be monitored and supported. Intensivists need to be prepared to quickly intervene with specialized procedures and life-sustaining technologies and treatments.
Examples of common problems that may require care in the ICU include heart attack, stroke, pneumonia, surgical complications, serious infections, severe breathing problems, poisoning, severe injuries or wounds, and burns. However, any illness or injury that threatens life may result in a patient being admitted to the ICU for care.
The Chester County Hospital has dedicated itself to providing the most effective and efficient care possible for critically ill patients. The Hospital's 14-bed ICU houses state-of-the-art medical equipment specifically designed for the care of critically ill or injured patients. In addition to the latest technologies, the Hospital's ICU utilizes a team approach led by intensivists as described above. These critical care specialists evaluate and manage the care of the patients in the ICU.
Although the intensivist-led model has fast become the "gold standard" for critical care in the United States, only a few suburban hospitals across the country currently offer this level of service. Many use a "virtual" intensivist model instead, where the specialist is consulting remotely via teleconference technology and is not at the bedside. The Chester County Hospital has four intensivists on staff plus a large team of allied health professionals including but not limited to nurse practitioners and physician assistants. This critical care service provides round-the-clock onsite coverage.
For more information about intensivists on the Medical Staff at The Chester County Hospital and Health System, call our Physician Referral Service at 610.738.2300 or visit the Find a Doctor section of our website.
Last Updated: 2/22/2013