The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) rippled across the world from Wuhan, China, to the shores of the United States within a few months. Hospitals and intensive care units were suddenly faced with a “tsunami” warning requiring instantaneous implementation and escalation of disaster plans.

Evidence Review

An evidence-based question was developed and an extensive review of the literature was completed, resulting in a structured plan for the intensive care units to manage a surge of patients critically ill with COVID-19 in March 2020. Twenty-five sources of evidence focusing on pandemic intensive care unit and COVID-19 management laid the foundation for the team to navigate the crisis.


The Critical Care Services task force adopted recommendations from the CHEST consensus statement on surge capacity principles and other sources, which served as the framework for the organized response. The 4 S’s became the focus: space, staff, supplies, and systems. Development of algorithms, workflows, and new processes related to treating patients, staffing shortages, and limited supplies. New intensive care unit staffing solutions were adopted.


Using a framework based on the literature reviewed, the Critical Care Services task force controlled the surge of patients with COVID-19 in March through May 2020. Patients received excellent care, and the mortality rate was 0.008%. The intensive care unit team had the needed respiratory and general supplies but had to continually adapt to shortages of personal protective equipment, cleaning products, and some medications.


The intensive care unit pandemic response plan has been established and the team is prepared for the next wave of COVID-19.

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