What is the discipline of Critical Care? 

We are a composite discipline comprised of Emergency Medicine, Intensive Care and Anaesthesia.  Our patients present with symptoms and signs rather than a diagnosis. We see the whole spectrum of acuity. We assess patients with evolving conditions that are eventually diagnosed, either while under our care or later, as an inpatient. The pathology we see fall within all the other medical and surgical specialties. 

We deal with uncertainties and our main tasks are assessment for life or organ-threatening symptoms and stabilising the pathophysiology to determine the cause or the diagnosis. We work with our colleagues from all medical and surgical specialties. In other words, we are part of everyone else’s business. Hence, we consult, collaborate and work in a multidisciplinary team environment. Our focus is to manage the unstable and undifferentiated patients with a structured approach.

To establish this new discipline, we have brought together academics and conjoint lecturers from the three specialties to provide teaching at all the campuses.   

The initial focus of the discipline is to:

  • Develop a critical care curriculum for students from phase 1 to phase 3.

  • Develop a phase 3 critical care course guide for students.

  • Provide learning and assessment resources for use across the campuses to achieve standardised teaching and transparent learning outcomes. 

We are a hands-on specialty where students will develop technical/procedural skills that are transferable to other fields of clinical practice. The program apportions time for students to acquire the procedural skills required of an intern.


Students will find opportunities to undertake research across the 3 specialties, either as ILP or Honours projects or postgraduate research.

Current and recent areas of research at UNSW include:

  • Specific Drug Poisonings – lamotrigine, dihydropyridine, sodium channel blockers, tapentad
  • Translational research in antidotes – digoxin specific antibodies, acetylcysteine.
  • Treatment for Corrosive Injury from Button Battery
  • Emergency Department Presentation of Prisoners
  • Electronic Vaping
  • Performing Blood Culture in the Emergency Department
  • Tapentadol prescription in a local health district
  • Self-Efficacy and Competency in Learning
  • Cognitive Assessment following Drug Overdoses 
  • Cognitive Assessment in shift work health care workers