University of Technology Sydney

090023 Complex Critical Care

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2024 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Health
Credit points: 6 cp
Result type: Grade and marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


This subject advances students’ skills in the application of the pathophysiology of critical illness and traumatic injury using a range of authentic, contemporary adult and paediatric case scenarios. Students evaluate complex patient data to inform clinical decision making and the management of care of people with life-threatening conditions, injuries and complications. Students explore and integrate the use of therapeutic interventions including mechanical ventilation, advanced pharmacological and haemodynamic support in the provision of person and family centred care in the Australian context.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:
A. Investigate how complex physiological alterations and the pathophysiology of critical illness and major trauma informs triaging, prioritisation of care, clinical assessment and management in the critical care setting
B. Formulate and implement advanced, comprehensive systematic assessment skills to inform clinical decision-making and the management of critically ill patients
C. Evaluate different models of care that address the complex physical, psychosocial, and cultural needs of patients and families in critical care with a key focus on Indigenous Australians
D. Integrate advanced therapeutic interventions with advanced clinical reasoning and judgement to provide efficient, safe and effective person and family centred care

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject also contributes specifically to the following graduate attributes:

  • Identify, synthesise, evaluate and apply the best available evidence for translation into practice to achieve optimal health outcomes (1.1)
  • Integrate critical thinking and advanced assessment skills to plan, implement and evaluate evidence based culturally capable person and family centred care (1.3)
  • Develop collaborative, reflexive and responsive clinical leadership that promotes safe and effective, evidence based, culturally capable person and family centred care (2.2)
  • Apply ethico-legal principles to the critical care environment (3.2)
  • Demonstrate care that is informed by quality and safety principles which is socially responsible and values the diversity of people (3.3)
  • Engage with patients, significant others and the healthcare team using a range of interpersonal and professional skills (4.1)
  • Demonstrate respectful, empathic and person and family centred care in challenging and/or complex situations across diverse population groups (4.2)
  • Develop a commitment to excellence in lifelong learning and continuing professional development (5.1)
  • Advocate for, respect and value Indigenous Australians, their ways of knowing, being and doing and integrate cultural practices in the critical care setting (6.1)

Contribution to the development of graduate attributes

This subject also contributes specifically to the following graduate attributes:

Critical thinking: Are reflective critical thinkers who examine and contribute to practice, policy and research to achieve clinical excellence and enhance health outcomes (1.0)

Leadership: Are visionary, innovative and responsive leaders (2.0)

Accountability: Are socially, culturally and ethically aware and accountable when engaging with health care consumers, families/significant others, interdisciplinary teams, communities, organisations and authorities (3.0)

Communication: Communicate effectively and professionally in diverse and dynamic situations (4.0)

Professional qualities: Embody the professional qualities appropriate to the scope of their role (5.0)

Indigenous cultural respect: Demonstrate professional capabilities to work effectively with and for Indigenous peoples and communities across the health profession (6.0)

Teaching and learning strategies

Orientation activities
Preparation for the session - You are expected to undertake activities during orientation week. These activities are designed to introduce you to the subject and your peers, and will assist you to prepare for the subject's assessment tasks.

Independent learning activities
Relevant readings, videos and activities will be made available online relevant to the topic of the week. This will support your ability to progress successfully throughout the subject and complete assessment items effectively. The online material aims to enhance your understanding of the topic or delve deeper into a more specific area, compare experiences and ideas with others and gain feedback. Information and links to all these learning activities can be accessed via Canvas as well as the subject outline.

Zoom meetings
You are strongly encouraged to attend all scheduled Zoom meetings as they will prepare you for the subject’s assessment tasks. Additionally, they provide opportunities for group activities, discussion, self-assessment, peer review and formative feedback from the subject coordinator and your teaching team. The schedule for this subject’s zoom meetings is below in the program section.

Feedback in this subject takes several forms including self-assessment, peer review, automatic feedback from interactive activities and from the teaching team. Formative feedback throughout the subject aims to increase your performance in summative assessments.

Feedback and changes from previous subject offering
Feedback from the previous offering was positive and no major changes have been made. Several resources and readings have been updated and/or refined to maintain subject quality, accuracy and relevance.

Content (topics)

This Subject will cover the following topics:

Module 1:

  • Australian health care system
  • Emergency departments
  • Caring for the critically ill
  • Structured patient assessments
  • Pain management

Module 2:

  • Complex cardiac issues
  • Underlying pathophysiology
  • Cardiac physiology, interpretation, monitoring and interventions
  • Social considerations
  • Pharmacology in the ICU

Module 3:

  • Recognition and management of sepsis
  • Use of inotropes in critical care
  • Introduction to mechanical ventilation
  • Haemodynamic monitoring
  • Interpretation of arterial blood gases
  • Pharmacology in critical care

Module 4:

  • Assessing and managing a trauma patient
  • Management of hypovolemic shock
  • Triad of death
  • Mechanical ventilation in the ICU
  • Delirium and drug management in the ICU

Module 5:

  • Assessment and management of a patient with neurological dysfunction
  • Neuroscience nursing
  • Pathophysiological changes and nursing/ medical interventions
  • Tracheostomy care
  • Neuropharmacology
  • ICU essentials of care

Module 6:

  • Assessment and management of respiratory failure
  • Types of respiratory failure
  • Non-invasive ventilation
  • Physical, cultural and psychosocial considerations


Assessment task 1: Case study proposal


This assessment provides a platform to guide your study and assessment in this subject. It will help you in identifying specific learning needs as they relate to the subject learning objectives. The case study you chose will be become the basis for your final assessment and will assist you to achieve and evaluate those learning needs by the end of this study session.


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

A, B, C and D

This assessment task contributes to the development of graduate attribute(s):

1.3, 3.3, 4.2 and 5.1

Type: Case study
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 20%

600 words (+/- 10%) not including final reference list. Your marker will stop marking at 650 words.

Assessment task 2: Quiz


This assessment enables you to demonstrate your understanding and ability to apply some of the concepts you have learned in weeks one to six of this subject.


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

A, B and D

This assessment task contributes to the development of graduate attribute(s):

1.1, 1.3 and 3.3

Type: Quiz/test
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 30%

30 minutes each quiz (total of two quizzes)


Further information available in canvas

Assessment task 3: Case study


As a critical care nurse, you are expected to evaluate complex patient data to inform your decision making in the management of critically unwell patients. This assessment will be the culmination of your proposal submitted in assessment one and will enable you to demonstrate your understanding and application of the management and care they received.


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

A, B, C and D

This assessment task contributes to the development of graduate attribute(s):

1.1, 2.2, 3.2, 4.1 and 6.1

Type: Case study
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 50%

2500 words (+/- 10%) not including final reference list. Your marker will stop marking at 2750 words.

Required texts

Aitken, L., Marshall, A., & Chaboyer, W (2019) Critical Care Nursing. 4th edition. Elsevier.


Curtis, K., Ramsden, C., Shaban. R.Z., Fry, M., & Considine, J. (2019) Emergency and Trauma Care for Nurses and Paramedics. 3rd edition. Elsevier


University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). (2020). Assessment of coursework subjects policy and procedures, UTS.

A comprehensive list of references and other resources are available in this subject in Canvas.

Other resources

UTS Student Centre
Building 10

Monday to Friday: 9am - 5pm
Tel: 1300 ASK UTS (1300 275 887)

Details for student centres:

For other resources/ information refer to the Faculty of Health website ( and Canvas at:

UTS Library
The Library has a wide range of resources, facilities and services to support you including textbooks, subject readings, health literature databases, workshops and bookable study rooms. There is also a team of librarians to help you with your questions available via online chat, phone and in person. W:, Facebook: utslibrary, Twitter: @utslibrary Tel: (02) 9514 3666.

Improve your academic and English language skills
Marks for all assessment tasks such as assignments and examinations are given not only for what you write but also for how you write. If you would like the opportunity to improve your academic and English language skills, make an appointment with the HELPS (Higher Education Language & Presentation Support) Service in Student Services.

HELPS (Higher Education Language & Presentation Support)
HELPS provides assistance with English language proficiency and academic language. Students who need to develop their written and/or spoken English should make use of the free services offered by HELPS, including academic language workshops, vacation intensive courses, drop-in consultations, individual appointments and Conversations@UTS ( HELPS staff are also available for drop-in consultations at the UTS Library. Phone (02) 9514 9733.

Please see for additional information on other resources provided to students by UTS.

The Accessibility and Financial Assistance Service
The Accessibility Service can support students with disabilities, medical or mental health conditions, including temporary injuries (e.g., broken limbs). The Accessibility Service works with Academic Liaison Officers in each Faculty to provide ‘reasonable adjustments’ such as exam provisions, assistive technology, requests and strategies for managing your studies alongside your health condition. If you’re unsure whether you need assistance, we recommend getting in touch early and we can provide advice on how our service can assist you. Make an appointment with an Accessibility Consultant (AC) on +61 2 9514 1177 or

The Financial Assistance Service can assist you with financial aspects of life at university, including Centrelink information, tax returns and budgeting, interest-free student loans and grants to assist with course-related costs. Check eligibility and apply online and make an appointment on +61 2 9514 1177 or