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Teaching critical care in Europe: Analysis of a survey

Garcia-Barbero, Mila MD PhD; Such, J. Caturla MD PhD

Special Article

Objective  To analyze the status of the teaching of critical care at the postgraduate and undergraduate levels in Europe.

Data Sources  Two types of questionnaires were sent in order to collect data. The first questionnaire was sent to the heads of the intensive care units (ICUs) of at least five of the major hospitals in each western country of the European Region of the World Health Organization and to the people responsible for specialist training in the Eastern countries. Countries in the former USSR and former Yugoslavia were excluded; 50 questionnaires (of 105) were returned. The second questionnaire was sent to the 374 medical schools in the European Region; 253 were returned although only 185 were selected for this article.

Results  Postgraduate and undergraduate training differ widely in terms of the content of, and disciplines in charge of, the teaching of critical care. Even countries of the World Health Organization's European Region, where critical care is a recognized clinical specialty, do not have an academic discipline of critical care. This lack of an established academic discipline of critical care contributes to the diversity in teaching critical care in medical schools in the countries we studied. Postgraduate training is more formally regulated, and objectives and guidelines have been established in many countries. The topics in medical schools that correspond to critical care medicine do not encompass a distinct body of knowledge and are distributed among more traditional disciplines, most frequently internal medicine, anesthesiology, and surgery. The critical care medicine experience afforded to undergraduates varies widely between and within countries. The repetition of critical care conditions for which patients receive critical care in several disciplines, as described by the responses, leads us to wonder whether these conditions are really included in the curriculum.

Conclusions  The standardization of curriculum content on critical care medicine, the clear definition of competence (the combination of knowledge, attitudes, skills, and judgment necessary to practice) in medical schools, and better coordinated postgraduate training are needed to clarify an educational approach in the field. Practitioners of critical care medicine will have to participate actively on curriculum committees. The recognition of critical care medicine as a specialty or subspecialty and as an academic discipline will facilitate the achievement of a comprehensive critical care education program.

(Crit Care Med 1996; 24:696-704)

From the World Health Organization (Dr. Garcia-Barbero), Regional Office for Europe, Copenhagen, Denmark, and Alicante University and General Hospital (Dr. Caturla), Alicante, Spain.

Performed and supported, in part, by the World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe.

Address requests for reprints to: Dr. Mila Garcia-Barbero, Regional Adviser for Medical Education and Hospitals, World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe, 8 Scherfigsvej, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark.

© Williams & Wilkins 1996. All Rights Reserved.