University of Technology Sydney

92919 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 2022 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Health
Credit points: 6 cp

Subject level:


Result type: Grade and marks

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

Requisite elaboration/waiver:

AHPRA RN - Minimum 1 year employment in Critical Care Nursing Specialty (Emergency Department, Intensive Care, Cardiothoracic Intensive Care) within the last three years inclusively. This course primarily caters to adult critical care nurses, however nurses working in paediatric critical care settings as above may also apply.

Recommended studies:

92918 Fundamentals of Critical Care Nursing


This subject is designed to enable students to build on fundamental principles underpinning critical care nursing through application of theoretical knowledge and case-based learning, that may then be consolidated through experiential learning in clinical practice. The subject is divided in a series of masterclass workshops where students have the opportunity to explore complex case-based management of critically ill people with clinically challenging presentations. Students are in a position to determine the depth at which they learn inside the subject through flexibility in their depth of study relevant to each case study/masterclass. Students have access to a varied selection of resources that enable a comprehensive learning opportunity according to skill level and learning needs. The varied type of assessment both written and viva allows students to demonstrate both written and professional communication skills. Subject learning enables application of technical and creative knowledge using the best available evidence and high-level clinical judgement. The philosophy of person-centred care is embedded to enable excellence in holistic critical care nursing practice.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:
A. Synthesise information that draws together various complex issues related to a critically ill person including vital signs, diagnostic results, physiological alterations and pathophysiological processes in order to prioritise nursing care and address individual patient needs.
B. Initiate planning, diagnosing, implementation and evaluation of care for patients with complex critical illness while demonstrating insight into underlying patient pathology.
C. Build on and apply technical and creative knowledge using the best available evidence and high level clinical reasoning and judgement to demonstrate application of clinical knowledge to practice.
D. Recognise components of self (physical, psychological, social, cultural, environmental & spiritual) and maintain person-centred care inside a holistic approach as applied to the practice of critical care nursing.
E. Demonstrate the ability to integrate safe and appropriate pharmacotherapy in case based critical care nursing.
F. Function as an integral member of the critical care team and demonstrate professional development and communication as well as the leadership, emotional intelligence, resilience and integrity required to foster a supportive, collaborative workplace environment and culture.

Teaching and learning strategies

In this subject, you will participate in a range of teaching and learning strategies that are designed to encourage you to empower students to manage their learning experience and environment using active and collaborative learning which aims to build on current knowledge, skills, and attitudes applicable to their critical care nursing practice.

Orientation activities
Preparation for the Session - students are expected to undertake activities prior to the first week. These activities include online readings, videos, interaction with peers, and are important in helping students prepare for the subject's Assessment Tasks. This also provides students with an opportunity to meet and interact with peers. Students will learn through independent learning activities, group work, peer review, and participation in the Workshops.

Independent learning activities
Relevant readings, videos and activities will be made available online relevant to the topic of the week. Students are expected to come to Workshops prepared. This will enhance the students’ ability to progress successfully throughout the subject and complete assessment items effectively. The online material aims to enhance students’ 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 UTSOnline as well as the subject outline.

Workshops will provide opportunities for group activities and discussion, self-assessment, peer review, and formative feedback from the subject coordinator. Workshops will be conducted as per scheduled timetable. Students are strongly encouraged to attend Workshops as these prepare students for the subject’s Assessment Tasks.

Feedback will be frequent and takes several forms including self-assessment, peer review, automatic feedback from interactive activities e.g. quizzes, and from the subject coordinator. Formative feedback throughout the subject aims to increase student performance at summative assessments.

Content (topics)

Principles underpinning critical care nursing within a holistic model of care is the focus of this subject. The study days are designed to focus on particular aspects of care in relation to care of the critically ill person with complex needs in challenging situations.

The following content is blended throughout the sessions in relation to the care of the critically ill person in the specific area of focus according to the program:

  • Comprehensive patient assessment
  • Nursing care / interventions (principles of care / interventions)
  • Physiological alterations
  • Pathophysiological processes
  • Management and evaluation of patient care through critical thinking, complex clinical decision making and evidence based practice
  • Recognition of the effect of the critical care environment on critically ill people and their families


Assessment task 1: Case Study - Applied Pharmacotherapy


Pharmacotherapy is an integral component in treating critically ill people. Polypharmacy is not uncommon for treating complex critically ill people with challenging needs. It is imperative for critical care nurses to have a sound understanding of pharmacotherapy and its effect on physiology when used as a treatment modality in complex patient cases so that this knowledge can then be applied to clinical practice.

A case based approach will provide students with the opportunity to tailor the assessment to individual learning needs through selecting a patient case and evaluating the use and efficacy of a particular medication they may (or may not) be less familiar with. Students are able to build on scholarly academic writing skills by developing critical thinking and case based application of knowledge through evaluation of best practice, while incorporating feedback from the previous 92918 Case Study Assessment (for those who have undertaken this subject).


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

A, B, C, D and E

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

1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0

Type: Case study
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 50%

2000 words


Detailed Marking Criteria will be available via UTSOnline

Assessment task 2: Viva


The viva assessment allows students to fully apply their previous clinical experience and learned theoretical knowledge to a patient case. Those students who prefer to speak about their application of knowledge to clinical practice, rather than present a written scholarly academic piece of work have the opportunity to do so in a safe, fully supported learning environment. The viva assessment enables students to demonstrate their ability to plan, prioritise and deliver critical care nursing as well as articulate their response to sudden changes in a critically ill patient's deteriorating condition. Students are also well placed to demonstrate their capacity to engage with, and communicate effectively with their colleagues and members of the health care team.


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

A, B, C, D, E and F

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

1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0

Type: Case study
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 50%

25 minutes reading time

30 minute viva

Required texts

Aitken, L., Marshall, A. & Chaboyer, W. (Eds.). (2019). ACCCN’s critical care nursing. (4th ed.). Elsevier.

Curtis, K. & Ramsden, C. (Eds.). (2019). Emergency and trauma nursing. (3rd ed). Mosby Elsevier Sydney.

Recommended texts

Craft, J., Gordon, C., Huether, S.E., McCance, K.L., & Brashers, V.L. (Eds.). (2018). Understanding Pathophysiology ANZ (3rd ed.). Elsevier.

Marieb, E.N., Hoehn, K., Hutchinson, M., Mallat, J. B. & Brady Wilhelm, P. (Eds.). (2018). Human anatomy and physiology + a brief atlas of the human body (11th ed.). Pearson Education.

Stein-Parbury, J. (2017), Patient and person: Interpersonal skills in nursing, (6th ed.). Churchill Livingstone.

Refer to UTSOnline for a full list of recommended readings.


Aitken, L., M. & Marshall, A. P. (2007).' Writing a case study: ensuring a meaningful contribution to the literature', Australian Critical Care, vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 132-136.

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 UTSOnline 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.