Physician staffing needs in critical care departments

Med Intensiva (Engl Ed). Jan-Feb 2018;42(1):37-46. doi: 10.1016/j.medin.2017.09.013. Epub 2017 Nov 22.
[Article in English, Spanish]


Departments of Critical Care Medicine are characterized by high medical assistance costs and great complexity. Published recommendations on determining the needs of medical staff in the DCCM are based on low levels of evidence and attribute excessive significance to the structural/welfare approach (physician-to-beds ratio), thus generating incomplete and minimalistic information. The Spanish Society of Intensive Care Medicine and Coronary Units established a Technical Committee of experts, the purpose of which was to draft recommendations regarding requirements for medical professionals in the ICU. The Technical Committee defined the following categories: 1) Patient care-related aspects; 2) Activities outside the ICU; 3) Patient safety and clinical management aspects; 4) Teaching; and 5) Research. A subcommittee was established with experts pertaining to each activity category, defining criteria for quantifying the percentage time of the intensivists dedicated to each task, and taking into account occupational category. A quantitative method was applied, the parameters of which were the number of procedures or tasks and the respective estimated indicative times for patient care-related activities within or outside the context of the DCCM, as well as for teaching and research activities. Regarding non-instrumental activities, which are more difficult to evaluate in real time, a matrix of range versus productivity was applied, defining approximate percentages according to occupational category. All activities and indicative times were tabulated, and a spreadsheet was created that modified a previously designed model in order to perform calculations according to the total sum of hours worked and the hours stipulated in the respective work contract. The competencies needed and the tasks which a Department of Critical Care Medicine professional must perform far exceed those of a purely patient care-related character, and cannot be quantified using structural criteria. The method for describing the 5 types of activity, the quantification of specific tasks, the respective times needed for each task, and the generation of a spreadsheet led to the creation of a management instrument.

Keywords: Actividad; Activity; Department of critical care medicine; Intensive care unit; Servicio medicina intensiva; Unidad de cuidados intensivos.

MeSH terms

  • Critical Care / organization & administration*
  • Efficiency, Organizational
  • Health Workforce*
  • Hospital Departments / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / organization & administration*
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / supply & distribution*
  • Medicine
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Patient Safety
  • Research
  • Spain
  • Time and Motion Studies