Critical care of the future through students’ eyes

What does the ideal future look like for the new generation of caregivers working in the Intensive Care Unit? That is the question students answered during the ‘Critical Care of the Future through Students’ Eyes’ workshop. Associate professors Iris Wallenburg (Erasmus University) and Elif Ozcan (TU Delft) and professor and ICU department head Diederik Gommers (Erasmus MC) organized the convergence workshop.

Physicians and nurses in training, future data analysts and social science students came together at the workshop to think about the future of ICU work. ‘The shortage of healthcare professionals, especially nurses, is a growing problem. Moreover, healthcare is becoming increasingly complex, which requires a diverse group of professionals. We wanted to learn how to attract a new generation of caregivers,’ Wallenburg said.

High workload

After an introduction by Diederik Gommers, ICU nurses gave the students a tour. They then discussed using technology, dealing with high workloads and caring for patients.

Jochem Galema, visual thinker, converted the ideas and thoughts into a poster. Students’ expectations about working in the ICU? You can find them on the left side of the poster. Wallenburg sums it up: ‘It currently feels like keeping all balls in the air, heavy workload and over-stimulation from technology.’

Under the ICU bed hides a little elephant, representing the elephant in the room. It asks the question: should we admit and treat every patient? Does that make sense if the chance of survival is nil, and how can we deal with the increasing pressure from the family? Given the ever-increasing demand for care and staff shortages, can we continue like this in the future?


If you look over to the right side of the poster, it becomes clear how the students envision the future of healthcare. In the workplace, it is essential to the students that they do not have to be constantly “on,” ready to jump in. ‘The work has to be feasible,’ the students say. Technology can play a supporting role, but the students want to maintain the knowledge to do their jobs even without technology.

In addition, according to the students, the conditions outside the hospital make the hard work inside the hospital possible. The students are quite willing to work hard, but not if they still have to make ends meet. They would like some support regarding things like child care and housing. Moreover, careers within the hospital could be more flexible and tailored to the individual professional. The students like the idea of a career switch, not doing the same thing for 50 years.

Black and white

What the researchers liked about the workshop was that the students could speak nuanced about the future of healthcare. In their daily work, the researchers experience a black-and-white image of Gen-Z or, for example, self-employed workers. ‘Often, the image exists that the new generation does not want to work hard or put the patient first. This workshop shows: they do want to work hard. But we have to make it viable.’