In response to The Leapfrog Group's survey of urban hospitals (Click here to see the survey), the Society of Critical Care Medicine questions the feasibility of implementing the ICU staffing standard recommended by Leapfrog. As the leading organization representing all four disciplines of critical care, the 10,000-member professional society is concerned that there are insufficient qualified critical care specialists to comply with Leapfrog standards.

``While the Society applauds the standard it believes implementation will require Herculean efforts to accomplish this feat,'' says Ann E. Thompson, MD, FCCM, president of the Society. ``In the last decade, studies have clearly demonstrated the ability of intensivists to improve the survival of critically ill patients, maximize the efficient use of costly hospital resources, and decrease the cost of care. Failing to implement the standard will perpetuate the situation that exists in a majority of hospitals today. Our most critically ill patients do not receive optimal care and many are dying unnecessarily.''

For the past 30 years the Society has advocated for the use of trained ICU specialists. Unfortunately, less than one-quarter of ICU's are currently staffed by physicians adequately trained in ICU management. And, over the foreseeable future the problem is expected to worsen significantly.``

The Society of Critical Care Medicine, a founding member of the Critical Care Workforce Partnership (a coalition of four professional societies) recently developed a position paper, The Aging of the U.S. Population and Increased Need for Critical Care Services. (Click here to see the position paper.)

The publication indicates that there aren't enough critical care practitioners to provide adequate patient care for the demand expected from aging ``baby boomers.'' Even if a majority of hospitals want to comply with the Leapfrog standard, the current supply of qualified critical care specialists is inadequate to meet those needs. In fact, the shortfall is expected to increase significantly through the year 2030. The nursing shortage is even more severe. In order to increase the existing level of service, more physicians and nurses will be necessary than are currently being trained.

The Society of Critical Care Medicine suggests the following solutions to this growing healthcare crisis:

-- Attract critical care specialists and increase funding for the medical and nursing programs.

-- Improve working conditions and increase compensation for nurses.

-- Engage professional societies and the public to advocate for expansion of critical care training programs.

-- Educate the public on the life-saving value of appropriately trained ICU physicians

The Society of Critical Care Medicine is the leading professional organization dedicated to ensuring excellence and consistency in the practice of critical care medicine. With 10,000 members worldwide, the Society is the only professional organization devoted exclusively to the advancement of multidisciplinary, multiprofessional intensive care through excellence in patient care, professional education, public education, research, and advocacy. Members of the Society include intensivists, critical care nurses, critical care pharmacists, clinical pharmacologists, respiratory therapists and other professionals, which may include technicians, social workers, dieticians and members of the clergy.