Mastering Intensive Care 014 with Brian Cuthbertson

Do you think your procedural skills are more important than your ability to lead and to mentor? Do you have a department head who talks about your personal wellness with you? How do you maintain and improve your skills in leading a family meeting?



Professor Brian Cuthbertson believes that our non-technical skills, those human factor aspects like leadership, mentoring, communication and leading meetings with patient’s relatives, are more important than our clinical procedural skills as we evolve in our careers. But do we talk enough about them? In this episode Brian discusses several of these important non-technical skills giving some powerful insights as a highly experienced clinician and leader in the field of intensive care.

Brian is Chief of the Department of Critical Care Medicine at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and Professor in the Interdepartmental Division of Critical Care Medicine at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Canada. He is also an Honorary Professor of Critical Care Medicine at the University of Aberdeen and an Honorary Professorial Fellow at the George Institute of Global Health in Sydney. Brian’s research interests include improving outcomes from critical illness and major surgery. He has over 135 peer-reviewed publications and $17 million of research grants as well as playing a leading role in a number of key clinical guidelines.

Brian was very keen to talk about how much he values the human factors we all need to concentrate on to be the best we can be. Some of the main topics of discussion include:

  • Brian’s love for intensive care, which began with the machines and is now much more about humans
  • The benefits he has realised from having high-class mentors in different areas
  • His role as a mentor to others and how there needs to be some structure to this relationship
  • How leadership at the bedside is like conducting an orchestra where everyone needs to be heard
  • The need for senior trainees to stay in charge of resuscitation teams even when the consultant arrives
  • How being a good team-player often requires us to drop our egos
  • The value of good habits at the start of a ward round
  • The need for department heads to address their team member’s personal wellness requirements to maximise vitality and balance
  • The importance of family members being at the bedside on clinical rounds to represent the values of the patient
  • The fact that the highest level skill we can have is the ability to lead a family meeting, especially in culturally-diverse cities
  • Placing the patient’s values and needs at the centre of any inter-professional discussions, particularly differences in opinion
  • The requirement for greater academic study of all of these non-technical skills

My genuine hope with the Mastering Intensive Care podcast is to inspire and empower you to bring your best self to the ICU by listening to the perspectives of such thought-provoking guests as Wes Ely. I passionately believe we can all get better, both as carers and as people, so we can do our absolute best for those patients whose lives are truly in our hands.

Feel free to leave a comment on the Facebook “mastering intensive care” page, on the LITFL episode page, on Twitter using #masteringintensivecare, or by sending me an email at andrewATmasteringintensivecare.com.

Further reading and listening

Mastering Internsive Care 700

Mastering Intensive Care

with Andrew Davies

Dr Andrew Davies MBBS FRACP FCIC. Intensivist/researcher at Frankston Hospital, Melbourne. Aiming to bring my best self to work & life. | Mastering Intensive Care | New Normal project |

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.