Who Makes Up Our Team
Intensivist (Attending Physician)
The ICU Intensivist is a physician who has obtained expertise in caring for critically ill patients through additional training specifically in critical care (at least two years).
The Intensivist is who the patient is admitted under and is who will coordinate and direct the medical care of the patient throughout that patient’s stay in the ICU. They are available 24/7 (all hours of the day) for consultation by all other members of the ICU team, ensuring that the best plan of treatment is delivered. The Intensivist is usually the attending physician for only one week at a time, and transfers care to a colleague on Mondays.
This will result in you seeing a number of different Intensivists if your stay in the ICU is extends a week.
The ICU Fellow is a physician who is further specializing in learning the skills and knowledge required to care for critically ill patients, which requires two extra years in training, focusing specifically on caring for critically ill patients.
The Fellow organizes and coordinates the care of the critically ill patient under the close supervision of the Intensivist. The Fellow also instructs the Residents (see below) on various skills and knowledge required for providing care to critically ill patients.
After graduation from medical school, physicians in many different specialty training programs require further knowledge and experience on how to care for critically ill patients during an ICU stay.
Within their training, the Residents spend time in an ICU learning the intricacies of critical care from the Intensivists and the ICU Fellow. As part of their learning, the Residents take part in the majority of the ‘hands on’ medical care for an ICU patient. Residents are in the hospital 24/7, making them readily available to respond to different needs for all ICU patients.
Given the extent of such coverage, the Residents’ schedule varies from day to day, which means you will encounter many different Residents during your stay in the ICU.
Medical sudents receive instruction on how to care for critically ill from the Intensivist, Fellow and Residents. They provide care under the direct supervision of physicians with the necessary knowledge and skills.
You may encounter Students working with the other physicians during your ICU stay.
Critical Care Registered Nurses (RN)
Due to the critical nature of ICU patients, a nurse with special training in critical care will be at the bedside of the patient 24/7. The nurses continuously monitor, assess, treat and report back to the medical staff.
Given this breadth of coverage, you will encounter many different nurses during a prolonged stay. Each nurse works a 12-hour shift, which means that you will encounter at least two different critical care nurses each day, plus others when your nurse steps away from the bedside.
Student Critical Care Registered Nurses
Student nurses are registered nurses who are receiving additional training in the care of critically ill patients and will be under the direct supervision of a staff critical care nurse.
Respiratory Therapist (RT)
Respiratory Therapists are highly skilled health care workers. They care for patients by looking after their heart and lungs. Within the ICU, Respiratory Therapists assist with life support for extremely ill patients using advanced medical equipment. They manage the breathing machines for patients who cannot breathe on their own. Respiratory Therapists work alongside physicians and nurses to provide CPR to patients with life threatening heart problems. They also provide breathing medications and education for patients with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other lung diseases.
Student Respiratory Therapist (SRT)
Respiratory therapy students are learning the skills and knowledge needed to care for critically ill patients. They work under the direct supervision of a staff Respiratory Therapist to ensure that they are providing the best care based on the individual needs of each patient.
Physiotherapists provide direct care to patients and direction to care team members to facilitate a patient’s mobilization. This may include positioning to protect joints, prevent complications and optimize respiratory function. Techniques to assist breathing may also be undertaken. Early mobilization of the patient in ICU directed by a physiotherapist and working in close collaboration with the ICU team will reduce complications, which reduces a patient’s length of stay and improves their overall quality of life.
The pharmacist is responsible for ensuring that each patient is receiving medications that are the correct dose, amount and combination to effectively treat the various conditions of the critically ill patient. The pharmacist will assist the physicians and nurses in ensuring that the route of administration (intravenous, oral or alternatives) is used to obtain the maximum benefit from any drug therapy.
The dietician will ensure that the patient is receiving the correct amount of nutrients to help patients recover from their critical illness. The dietician will assist the physicians and nurses in verifying that the route of administration (solid food, feeding via a tube or intravenous) is the best possible for providing the necessary nutrition.
The social worker has a wide range of responsibilities. The social worker ensures that patient’s needs are at the centre of their care and will help facilitate communication between patients, family members and the critical care team. As part of the critical care team in the ICU, they can provide emotional support and crisis intervention to help families cope with a life-threatening situation and ensure that patient and family members’ cultural, language and literacy needs are identified and met as best as possible.
If you’re unable to speak for yourself, the social worker can support you to articulate your values and wishes and make decisions on your behalf. The social worker also gives practical assistance such as with accommodations and transportation, linking to community resources, and financial and legal matters.
Speech Language Therapist
The Speech Language Therapist will assist the patient in coordinating their swallowing to ensure that the patient does not choke from attempting to swallow foods or medications. The Speech Language therapist will assist the physicians and nurses in ensuring the texture of any food or medication is appropriate for the individual patient’s swallowing ability.
Speech Language Pathologist (SLP)
The Speech Language Pathologist is responsible for assessing patients who are having difficulty swallowing and determining the safest methods for feeding and administering medications. The SLP provides treatment plans, such as exercises for strengthening the muscles used in swallowing.
The SLP also works with patients to improve their ability to communicate. For example, the SLP will help develop alternative communication systems for patients who are unable to speak when they are supported by breathing machines.
Occupational Therapist (OT)
The Occupational Therapist helps coordinate what aids the patient might require during their stay in the ICU. These can range from listening devices for the hearing impaired to specialized wheel chairs for mobilizing patients during their stay.
The Spiritual Health Practitioner is available for emotional and/or spiritual support during stressful and difficult times for patients and families. They are a multi-faith service and available to assist you and help coordinate the care you need, as related to your faith and cultural practices. Spiritual Health Practitioners are also available on-call after hours for emergencies.