What is Intensive Care Medicine?

Intensive care medicine treats patients who are in a life-threatening situation because of a serious illness, surgery or an accident.

These critically ill patients are mostly treated in an intensive care unit. These units have technically highly complex equipment which is operated by specially trained doctors and nursing staff. If the functioning of vital organs is already greatly reduced, it is up to intensive care medicine to prevent further loss of function by taking appropriate measures. Intensive care medicine ensures that the functioning of vital organs in the body is supported until the damaged organ is able to resume its normal function by itself. Because of their critical state of health, patients in intensive care units are monitored round the clock so that staff can react immediately to any changes.

While physical concerns are paramount in intensive care units, the inter-professional treatment team also takes care of the psychological welfare of patients and their families. In intensive care medicine, people are always our focus.

Intensive care units in the COVID-19 pandemic

Intensive care units and their treatment teams are playing a key role in the COVID-19 pandemic. In Switzerland so many patients with COVID-19 have been dependent on intensive care measures that intensive care units have temporarily reached the limits of their capacity.

The widespread postponement of non-urgent operations and treatments has partly prevented intensive care units from becoming overloaded. At the same time, an increase in bed capacity by the already overstretched intensive care teams has made a significant contribution towards handling of the pandemic. However, as a result of non-urgent operations and treatments being postponed during the pandemic, intensive care treatment teams are still under severe pressure even after a decrease in COVID-19 patients receiving intensive care treatment. This is because the number of patients requiring intensive care measures after a serious operation is on the rise again.

Certification of intensive care units

To guarantee and increase the high quality of intensive care treatment, units in Switzerland undergo a certification process. This involves inspection by the certification committee for intensive care units of the Swiss Society of Intensive Care Medicine (SGI – SSICM) based on an extensive dossier and an on-site visit to check whether the resources such as staff, equipment, premises and facilities, the structures and organisation of an intensive care unit comply with modern requirements for intensive care medicine. This certification process is the only one of its kind in the world.

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