The role of the Intensive Care Nurse on the Medical Emergency Team

Ms Cindy Weatherburn1, Ms Melanie Greenwood2, Ms Judith Anderson3

1Royal Hobart Hospital, , Australia, 2University of Tasmania, , Australia, 3University of Tasmania, , Australia


Intensive care nurses are essential members of rapid response systems (RRS) with little qualitative data available to capture what intensive care nurses do as they navigate their way around the complexity of a medical emergency call.

A qualitative research approach incorporated a two-phase constructivist grounded theory design to collect data from intensive care nurses who had experience attending medical emergency team calls. Data was collected through participant observation, followed by semi-structured interviews to develop an in-depth understanding of the intensive care nurse role, the way it is enacted and their responsibilities within the team.

This study found that Intensive care nurses utilised a routine framework for decision-making that is underpinned by highly developed assessments skills, a well-developed knowledge of emergency algorithms and protocols for treating cardiorespiratory changes and a theoretical understanding of the physiology of the deteriorating patient.  Intensive care nurses were found to draw on a range of critical decision-making skills to inform their practice which included being able to anticipate care, problem solve and question care.

Intensive care nurses assumed a nursing leadership role within the medical emergency team. They would direct care by delegating tasks, co-coordinating and prioritising care and keeping everyone on track. Intensive care nurses maintained a close working relationship with ward nurses during a MET call. The intensive care nurse acted as a resource for ward nurses providing support, education, and reassurance.

These findings have relevance for healthcare organisations, providers of health professional education and individuals working in the role.


Cindy is a critical care nurse who is currently working as the Clinical  Nurse Consultant in ICU at the Royal Hobart Hospital. She has over twenty years experience working in Intensive Care in a number of clinical roles.  She has just completed a Professional Doctorate in Health investigating  the roles and responsibilities of the ICU nurse on the Medical Emergency Team.