What is Critical Care Medicine?

Critical Care Medicine (Society of) is a recognized medical/surgical subspecialty which completely encompasses the direct application of biochemistry, physiology, and pharmacology to the care of patients with life-threatening illness. Critical Care Medicine directly integrates medical science with biomedical technology to provide continuous moment-to-moment life support. Critical Care Medicine is the compassionate and ethical application of the leading edge of medical knowledge.

UNC Hospitals is the hospital which developed the nation’s first ICU.

What is the Intensive Care Unit?

The Intensive Care Unit is home to practitioners of Critical Care Medicine. It is the place where the efforts of multidisciplinary medical specialists and support staff bring their knowledge to bear on acute illness. The critical care specialist coordinates these efforts carefully balancing the available technology and the needs of the patient to provide the highest quality of patient care. The ICU is also home to the teaching of medical students, residents, and fellows; and is a ‘laboratory of the highest order’ where invention and innovation occur continuously and is often the focal point for the future of medicine.

The mission of the Critical Care Division is threefold: to provide the highest quality of patient care, to provide academic excellence, and to further knowledge in the field through scholarly research.

The Critical Care Services Division manages the 8-bed Surgical Intensive Care Unit to which critically-ill general surgery, trauma, and transplant patients are admitted, and the 12-bed Multidisciplinary Critical Care Stepdown Unit. The SICU and Stepdown Units are managed in the “open unit” fashion, whereby the
critical care team co-manages patients with the primary surgical teams. Thus, although the primary
responsibilities of the Critical Care Team are ventilator management, sedation management, and intravascular line placement, the Critical Care Team follows each patient completely and makes recommendations on all aspects of patient management. The SICU is a true multidisciplinary environment.

Typically, the Critical Care Team consists of 2 general surgery residents, and 3 medical students. In addition, the following members are variably present: gynecology – oncology fellow, anesthesiology resident, neurosurgery resident, emergency department resident, and visiting medical students. There is a great opportunity for both teaching and learning.