Care for the critically ill as a specialist in Intensive Care Medicine

February 24, 2015

Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.

See current opportunities

Intensive care medicine focuses on the management of patients who are critically ill and those who need high dependency care. Intensive care specialists or intensivists provide life support or organ support systems to patients who are critically ill and require intensive monitoring. This includes patients suffering from cardiac arrhythmias, airway or respiratory difficulties, hypertension/hypotension instability, acute renal failure or multiple organ failure. Patients who require monitoring after major surgery also come under the care of intensive care medicine.

Job Description  

Mother and child with Gap Medics student on the Paediatrics ward at Morogoro Regional HospitalThis is one of the most resource-intensive and technologically advanced areas of medical care. Some of the more common equipment that you will use in the intensive care unit (ICU) includes assorted mechanical ventilation devices to help with breathing, nasogastric tubes, haemofiltration equipment for acute renal failure, catheters and suction pumps. Handling these advanced devices requires highly specialised knowledge and training.

Intensive medicine specialists undergo training in the assessment, resuscitation and management of critically ill patients including those with vital organ and system failures. As a practitioner in this specialty, you will be required to have expertise in airway management, mechanical ventilation, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and renal therapy as well as invasive monitoring.  You will also need to know how to use organ support and replacement systems.  Managing the processes of organ donation and of end-of-life care will also be part of your responsibility.

This is a high pressured job and the ability to work under pressure for long hours is an essential trait for anyone considering a career in this specialty.

Intensive care specialists usually work in a hospital where they are often assisted by a staff of doctors, nurses and other personnel.

Education & Training

It can take over fourteen years to become fully qualified intensive care specialist.

You will first have to obtain a medical degree, which would take 4 to 6 years depending on whether you are doing the 6 year MBBS degree or the 4 year graduate entry medical degree.

After you complete your medical degree you will receive provisional registration and become a junior doctor, after which you will need to complete a 12 month internship. This is usually done in a public hospital. While you are entitled to full medical registration after successfully completing your internship, it does not allow you to practice medicine independently.  You can only practice medicine independently only after you’ve completed a program of postgraduate medical training and achieved a fellowship at a specialist medical college. This can be done either immediately after your internship or after a period of ‘prevocational’ on-the-job training in the public hospital system. During this time you will be known as a resident or resident medical officer (RMO).  Those interested in specialising in intensive care will then spend another 6 years in advanced training before they ultimately receive their Fellowship and licence to practice.


The average annual salary range of an intensive care specialist in Australia is between $152,000 to $205,000, depending on experience and place of employment.