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What Is an Intensivist?

What is an intensivist?

An intensivist is a board-certified physician who provides special care for critically ill patients. Also known as a critical care physician, the intensivist has advanced training and experience in treating this complex type of patient.

What kind of training does an intensivist have?

After medical school, an intensivist completes a residency and board certification in a specialty such as surgery, internal medicine, pulmonary medicine or pediatrics, plus an additional two- to three-year fellowship and certification in critical care medicine.

How is an intensivist different from other specialists who treat critically ill patients?

Rather than focusing on specific body systems – like cardiologists (the heart and vascular system) or pulmonologists (the lungs and respiratory system) – intensivists take a comprehensive approach to caring for ICU patients.

The intensivist has the primary responsibility for the ICU patient’s care versus acting as a consultant, as many specialists do. In this role, he or she leads a team of caregivers who are experts in different specialties. The intensivist also oversees the many decisions involved in a critically ill patient’s care, and coordinates all the other services the patient may need – including those from specialists.

How do intensivists improve the quality of care in the ICU?

When intensivists follow the evidence-based guidelines for intensive care established by the Society of Critical Care Medicine – including the multispecialty team approach we use at UMass Memorial – there are well-documented benefits that include:

  • Improved patient outcomes, including survival rates
  • Reduced complications
  • Shorter lengths of stay in the ICU
  • Enhanced medication safety

Recipient of the Healthgrades Critical Care Excellence Award for three years in a row. 

Critical Care Excellence Award


Five-star Recipient for Treatment of Sepsis for five years in a row. 

Five-star treatment of Sepsis


Five-star Recipient for Treatment of Pulmonary Embolism for three years in a row. 

five-star treatment for respiratory failure