Organization and staffing practices in US cardiac intensive care units: a survey on behalf of the American Heart Association Writing Group on the Evolution of Critical Care Cardiology

Eur Heart J Acute Cardiovasc Care. 2013 Mar;2(1):3-8. doi: 10.1177/2048872612472063.


Background: The cardiac intensive care unit (CICU) has evolved into a complex patient-care environment with escalating acuity and increasing utilization of advanced technologies. These changing demographics of care may require greater clinical expertise among physician providers. Despite these changes, little is known about present-day staffing practices in US CICUs.

Methods and results: We conducted a survey of 178 medical directors of ICUs caring for cardiac patients to assess unit structure and physician staffing practices. Data were obtained from 123 CICUs (69% response rate) that were mostly from academic medical centres. A majority of hospitals utilized a dedicated CICU (68%) and approximately half of those hospitals employed a 'closed' unit model. In 46% of CICUs, an intensivist consult was available, but not routinely involved in care of critically ill cardiovascular patients, while 11% did not have a board-certified intensivist available for consultation. Most CICU directors (87%) surveyed agreed that a closed ICU structure provided better care than an open ICU and 81% of respondents identified an unmet need for cardiologists with critical care training.

Conclusions: We report contemporary structural models and staffing practices in a sample of US ICUs caring for critically ill cardiovascular patients. Although most hospitals surveyed had dedicated CICUs, a minority of CICUs employed a 'closed' CICU model and few had routine intensivist staffing. Most CICU directors agree that there is a need for cardiologists with intensivist training and expertise. These survey data reveal potential areas for continued improvement in US CICU organizational structure and physician staffing.

Keywords: Cardiac intensive care; cardiovascular medicine; critical care; staffing models.