Many people over the years have asked me how I stay up to date with the medical literature. Particularly, they tend to mean how I stay up to date in critical care. Hopefully, this post will explain things. Several years ago I created a youtube video which is linked below. I value staying up to date because I am in private practice, not academics. Therefore, I do not have to spend my days teaching residents, fellows, and students the newest data. People count on me to do my job and move along. It is my responsibility to provide the best care for my patients and my community.
There is a website called criticalcarereviews.com that was created by Rob McSweeny which I recommend to anyone who really wants to dive deep into the critical care literature. He (or maybe now his team) sends an email/newsletter at the beginning of every week. In this email, the most recent and relevant literature is posted. It’s a real treat when it pops into my inbox.
In order to sign up to the free newsletter, you go to the website, click where it says “newsletters”, then click “Register for the free weekly newsletter“. You register for the content and boom! You’re in! The email has numerous articles with links to the full papers and it is divided into the types of studies. You won’t regret receiving this email. It’s actually exciting, at least to me, when it arrives. It used to be sent every Sunday but it mostly arrives on Monday’s.
Create a dedicated email address for medical content
We all have several email addresses. Or at least I do. I have my primary email address that has been around for a decade, one for my shopping/junk, one for my professional stuff, one for my IG/side businesses. I used to subscribe to the tables of contents of several journals. They would populate in my main email address but it got quite messy. To correct that, I opened up a new email address dedicated ONLY to receiving the tables of contents of medical journals. In addition, I have subscriptions to when new articles are released and pre-published articles.
Subscribe to the tables of contents of medical journals
There are numerous medical journals that are high impact factor that scope a broad swath of medicine. These include the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, and JAMA. It is definitely worth your while to subscribe to these three. If anything groundbreaking in medicine is published, it will likely be published in one of these three.
The Critical Care Big Gun Journals.
Now, if you want to stay up to date in the critical care literature, you need to go down a different rabbit hole. The five major publications are the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (also called the blue journal), Intensive Care Medicine, Critical Care Medicine, Critical Care, and CHEST.
The catch here is that 4 of these 5 journals have most of their articles hidden behind a paywall. Critical Care is completely open access and free. Therefore, it is one of my favorites to share with all of you. The other journals push out some freebies every now and then as well. The Annals of Intensive Care is also open access and has great content.
The lesser known Critical Care Journals
Amongst the lesser known journals I use to stay up to date in critical care we can find Critical Care Clinics, Current Opinion in Critical Care, Journal of Intensive Care (which is open-access), and Journal of Critical Care. Shock is a fascinating publication that gets deep into the nitty-gritty of molecular science in the field. Resuscitation is also rather nuanced.
Cardiac ICU Journals
There has been an increase in the number of publications I have shared in the cardiac intensive care space. These days I am caring for a significant amount of patients in the cardiac and cardiothoracic ICU. In order to step up my knowledge and stay up to date in these subsets of critical care, I have subscriptions to the following journals: the Annals of Thoracic Surgery, the Journal of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Anesthesia, Seminars in Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, and Anesthesia and Critical Care Medicine.
Every morning, I wake up an hour before I need to leave the house to head to the hospital. Now that I have a baby, on my days off I try to wake up before the baby and my wife wake up to be able to knock out some reading. During this window, I am able to skim through that email account where the journals have populated overnight. Usually there are 5-8 emails for me to go over with numerous articles. When I find an article that catches my eye, I open it up and quickly skim through it. THIS POST takes apart how I go about reading journal articles. If it has a number of goodies within, I read it thoroughly. If it’s worthwhile for this community, I share it amongst my various accounts. I tend to read a couple articles a day within that hour.
It may seem like a lot to do, but once you get the hang of reading journal articles, it becomes much easier. With practice, one can learn how to easily digest the contents and find the red flags and “goodies” of the article. There’s a lot of esoteric stuff out there and will never change my practice. Those data are largely ignored if there are more pressing studies to read.
Addendum on 4/18/22.
Dr. Ravi Patel (@rpatel1590) suggested “Read by QxMD” as an app that will create a personalized feed for your journals.
Wrapping up how I stay up to date in critical care
As an intensivist, it is my duty and obligation to provide the best care possible to my patients. If I were to take care of you or your family, you’d hope that I was on top of the latest literature. Because of this responsibility, I have built the habit of reading every day. At first it was a struggle. No need to make it seem easier than it was. But now, it is much easier and part of my daily routine.