Caring for Unvaccinated Patients in the ICU: Beyond Frustration, Toward Beneficial Relationships

Trevor M. Bibler, Ryan H. Nelson, Olivia Schuman, Susan M. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Critical care professionals in the United States are experiencing distress and frustration during the recent delta-wave of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. This wave feels different because most, although not all, patients suffering with the sequelae from coronavirus disease 2019 who enter ICUs are unvaccinated. Since vaccines in the United States are safe, effective, and widely available for people 12 and older, severe cases of coronavirus disease 2019 are now considered preventable. However, even when a disease is preventable, critical care professionals still have remaining role-based, ethical obligations to their patients. Developing additional mechanisms for reflection and resilience, in spite of accumulated frustrations from otherwise preventable mortality, may help the professional and those they care for. In this essay, we propose a number of questions that recognize the existential frustrations critical care professionals experience, while also uncovering the ethical obligations that remain. Rather than becoming comfortable with silence or frustration, these reflections intend to bridge the gap between feeling frustrated and building relationships that benefit both the patient and the critical care professional during this pandemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E0581
JournalCritical Care Explorations
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2 2021


  • autonomy
  • critical care medicine
  • equity
  • ethics
  • moral distress
  • pandemic medicine
  • professionalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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