A Basic Intensivist Job Description

By Susan Landis-Steward , last updated January 10, 2012

Intensivists are board-certified physicians with additional training and certification in Critical Care Medicine. They can earn this certification as anesthesiologists, internists, pediatricians, or surgeons. Emergency medicine physicians also qualify as Critical Care Medicine providers if they are board-certified in their field and have participated in a critical care fellowship in a qualified program. There is no certification offered for emergency medicine physicians. Other physicians can be considered qualified if they meet certain requirements.


Intensivists specialize in intensive care. They work in a hospital setting, in the ICU, and may be on-call during non-regular hours as well. They evaluate and treat new patients, diagnose and stabilize critically ill patients, treat those with impending or active organ failure, or other life-threatening conditions. They also initiate advanced cardiac life support until a cardiac code team arrives and then supervise and support the team.

Intensivists may be the ICU team leader and supervise a staff of doctors and nurses. If so, they may also be responsible for training ICU nurses and nurse practitioners to increase their skills in treating critically ill patients.

Intensivists are also responsible for monitoring patients in an ICU and communicating their conditions to appropriate physicians or consultants. They may also lead daily rounds with nurses, interns, pastoral care personnel, or other staff to discuss the patient's current problems and care plan. They may use this time for teaching if time allows.

They also participate in their institution's Code Team and may be called upon to assume the role of Code Team Leader in the event of a cardiac or respiratory arrest. Intensivists may also serve as consultants to the patient's regular physician.

Intensivists are also responsible for maintaining up-to-date patient records, assisting in placing patients in the appropriate level of care when they leave the ICU, and completing all billing paperwork in a timely manner.

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