Health Service Categories and Careers


Intensive Care Medicine involves the comprehensive clinical management of critically ill patients, such as patients with life-threatening organ system failure, those at risk of clinical deterioration, or those requiring resuscitation and further management. Intensive care training develops specialist clinical skills, including the ability to recognise and manage the signs and symptoms associated with severe illness and organ system failure, and to diagnose and treat the conditions that cause them. This involves invasive and non-invasive testing, monitoring, and treatment to support the function of vital organs.

It also incorporates end of life care, the diagnosis of brain death, and the management of the organ donor and donation process. Intensive Care medicine is practiced in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and other high dependency units in the hospital, and sometimes in out-of-hospital settings, like in the ambulance or retrieval service, and is provided by a collaborative and multi-disciplinary team.

Intensive care medicine subspecialties include trauma, cardiothoracic and neurological/ neurosurgery intensive care.

Intensive Care Medicine Jobs

Intensive Care Physicians manage patients who are at high-risk of death or are in a critical condition needing emergency medical care of their major organs. The doctors in this field are also known as ‘intensivists’ and can diagnose and investigate serious illness and provide support to patient’s families. They must strive to uphold all safety and ethical procedures and, in some circumstances, provide end of life care to the patient. The intensive care specialist has advanced communication skills to effectively and appropriately interact with patients, families, other team members, and referring clinicians. They work in emergency and acute care settings in hospitals, including the ICU, HDU, and CCU. To train as an Intensive Care Physician, or Intensivist, doctors in PGY 2+ can undertake the 6-year training program with the College of Intensive Care Medicine of Australia and New Zealand, which leads to Fellowship (FCICM) and Specialist registration with the Australian Medical Board (AHPRA). Once at this level, they are senior doctors and their role involves continued professional development, clinical leadership, and contribution to teaching, research, quality improvement and administration.

Registrars (Intensive Care) work in critical care settings such as in the ICU, HCU, CCU and other out-of-hospital critical care environments. They are registered doctors who have completed their medical degree and pre-vocational training (internship and residency/PGY2-3). They have attained general registration with AHPRA and can now undertake specialist/or vocational training positions to broaden and refine their scope of practice and gain experience, skills and competency in their chosen area of medicine. Registrars are very important members of the integrated and multi-disciplinary health care team. They have increasing responsibility for patient care, overseeing and supporting junior doctors and staff, participating in professional development activities and continuing to receive important guidance, training, and support from senior staff. To pursue a career in this field, Registrars can undertake specialised advanced training in Intensive Care Medicine and its clinical practice. They work under Intensive Care Physicians/specialist consultants and develop procedural skills, clinical expertise, and valuable work experience in providing medical care, diagnosis and treatment for patients with critical and urgent medical needs, trauma or illness. They are skilled in airway management including bag/valve/mask ventilation, endotracheal intubation and LMA placement. They work across Intensive care, Emergency medicine, Anaesthetics, Paediatric medicine and Palliative care medicine.

Nurses (Critical Care) work with acutely ill patients in Emergency, ICU, CCU and other critical care and high dependency units in hospitals. They may also work in other locations as part of a rapid response team. They specialise in providing nursing care to a variety of patients – from very old to very young, who have immediate and serious health and medical needs from injury, acute illness or chronic/complex illness. They are skilled in managing patients in critical care settings and may be responsible for triage and evaluation, following patient management plans and recording changes, observing and monitoring a patient’s condition and vital signs, assisting medical staff with ICU therapies - such as ventilation, airway management and resuscitation, haemodynamic monitoring, dialysis, and other advanced life support or rehabilitation procedures - and supporting the patient during recovery or palliative care. To pursue a career in this field, nurses require current registration with AHPRA, relevant clinical experience, and often, a post graduate qualification in ICU, HDU, Emergency Nursing, or Coronary Care.