There is no doubt we are living in a new world. The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging organizations and individuals to react quickly and adapt overnight. Since the first reports of a novel coronavirus emerged, the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) delivered need-to-know information to a global audience, providing educational resources, advocating for intensive care unit (ICU) clinicians, and collaborating with organizations, governments and individuals worldwide.
Training the Non-ICU Clinician Workforce: With a robust collection of training materials designed for those not trained in critical care, SCCM quickly assembled vital videos and book chapters from its Fundamental Critical Care Support (FCCS) and Fundamental Disaster Management (FDM) programs and made them immediately and freely available online. With hospitals around the globe clamoring for opportunities to train non-ICU clinicians in preparation for patient surges, the program was immediately embraced, with more than 152,000 accessing it during the first week. The Society anticipated high usage and so, before release, ensured that the site could handle unprecedented traffic. Since its launch in early March, the program has been used by over 500,000 clinicians and is offered in Japanese, Spanish and Portuguese.
Sounding the Alarm on Staffing and Ventilator Shortages: With the publication of the report, United States Resource Availability for COVID-19, SCCM set out to prepare the U.S. critical care workforce, hospital administrators, government officials, and the public for the crisis that would emerge with a major patient surge. The report warned of a “profound shortage of intensivists and other ICU healthcare workers available to operate mechanical ventilators” and offered a tiered staffing strategy to help hospitals expand critical care services in response to the pandemic. It also included previously unpublished statistics on such resources as ICU bed availability and ventilator supply. Accessed more than 140,000 times, the paper found wide distribution among its intended audiences, including major media outlets such as the NBC Nightly News and The New York Times. This publication placed SCCM at the center of public attention as the pandemic unfolded in the United States. By May, SCCM members had participated in more than 110 media interviews, leading to more than 2,700 stories and reaching an audience of 6.7 billion people. Merriam-Webster added the word “intensivist” to its dictionary.
SCCM also worked with numerous organizations and government agencies in efforts to augment ventilator supplies and provide strategies and guidance for those in the field who faced shortages. SCCM President Lewis J. Kaplan, MD, FACS, FCCP, FCCM, was invited to the White House to provide expertise in this area, and he served on a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) task force to evaluate novel ventilator methodologies and equipment. This resulted in the publication of a document from the COVID-19 Co-Ventilation Task Force, producing guidance for clinicians who may find themselves out of options in an emergency surge.
Serving as the Voice of Critical Care: Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital that the voice of critical care professionals caring for patients on the front lines be heard. These clinician heroes are saving lives, risking their own health, and serving in spite of the potential for spreading the infection to their loved ones. SCCM advocated for more and better personal protective equipment, mental health resources, expansion of visas, and direct financial support for clinicians in numerous meetings with U.S. governmental leaders and through letters to the U.S. Congress and Senate, as well as the Trump Administration.
SCCM leaders regularly fielded calls for guidance from the White House, FEMA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other government agencies, positioning SCCM as the leading resource for care of the critically ill COVID-19 patient. The Society continues to partner with these federal entities in seeking complete resolution of the outbreak.
SCCM has made its position clear in 20 letters sent to Washington in support of a wide range of initiatives to support patients, their families and the clinician members of the ICU team. SCCM provided sign-on support to various organizations, such as the American Medical Association, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Critical Care Societies Collaborative. This show of support included initiatives such as the Heroes Act, which was recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Developing COVID-19 Education for Critical Care Professionals: SCCM provided a first-hand account from China on the emerging novel coronavirus crisis during its Critical Care Congress in Orlando in February 2020, and it has not stopped producing timely and relevant materials. SCCM quickly launched two webcasts series: one was intended to provide expert presentations to cover the most pressing issues of the day, and the other used a question-and-answer format to address in-the-field concerns. To date, SCCM has developed more than 20 complimentary webcasts viewed by upwards of half a million healthcare professionals.
The Society’s COVID-19 Rapid Resource Center has grown to include more than 200 easily searchable resources. In an environment where information is spreading and changing rapidly, this center provides a reliable and trusted source of information. Materials are vetted and peer reviewed, with new items added regularly and originating from SCCM workgroups as well as members of the critical care community at large.
During this crisis, SCCM developed new listening tools to ensure that its resources meet the needs of critical care professionals in the moment. Chatter is monitored on the newly launched COVID-19 discussion board, social media channels, LISTSERVs, SCCM Connect spaces, and Q&A sessions. In addition, journal articles, both in production and published, are reviewed. This information is collated, analyzed, and distributed to those leading SCCM’s response efforts to ensure the Society recognizes clinician concerns and is releasing highly relevant materials as they are needed.
SCCM Leaders at the Forefront: In perhaps one of the best examples of how the COVID-19 pandemic has required healthcare to move at the speed of light, the Surviving Sepsis Campaign (SSC) released a COVID-19 critical care guideline in March. Producing guidelines in a normal climate can take years, but this rapid-development cycle helped put important information into the hands of those who needed guidance and positioned SCCM members, once again, as global leaders in the pandemic.
Authors of the SSC guidelines, together with SCCM Council members and past presidents, received personal invitations from Anthony Fauci, MD, to serve on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) panel tasked with developing a national guideline. Released in April, the national guideline included major segments of the SSC guideline.
In addition, the Society’s President Elect Greg S. Martin, MD, MSc, FCCM, is among those leading the NIH’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative in an effort to make millions of accurate and easy-to-use COVID-19 tests available by the end of summer 2020 and making more in time for a possible second wave, which would likely occur in conjunction with influenza season.
Research Initiatives: Discovery, the Critical Care Research Network, in partnership with Mayo Clinic unveiled the first global COVID-19 registry that tracks ICU and hospital care patterns in near-real-time. The Viral Infection and Respiratory Illness Universal Study (VIRUS) registry will reveal practice variations and provide a rich database for research into effective treatments and care. Its rapid creation and SCCM’s ability to secure grant funding speak to the success of SCCM’s Discovery Network.
Organizing Donations, Grants and Partnerships: To help hospitals impacted by severe supply and equipment shortages , SCCM worked with other nonprofit organizations and corporations to offer support. For example, SCCM quickly identified New York City Health + Hospitals, and Avera McKennan Hospital and University Health Center both in South Dakota, as hospital systems with severe needs and partnered with Direct Relief to send ICU medication kits to these systems. The kits included more than 86,000 units of essential pharmaceuticals. Additionally, more than 100 oxygen concentrators were also shipped to these systems to aid in post-acute treatments.
SCCM also partnered with several companies that generously offered no-cost or significantly discounted rates at various airlines, hotels, car rentals and restaurants to support clinicians.
Many of the Society’s efforts discussed here would not have been possible without generous funding from organizations like the Schmidt Family Foundation, the Gordon and Betty More Foundation, the CDC Foundation and others who share SCCM’s values. In additon, members of the profession and public donated to support the response effort. For all of this generosity, we are extremely thankful.
Industry Support: To date, SCCM has received more than $700,000 from industry in support of our COVID-19 response efforts. These funds are being used to provide online educational content, virtual webinars and and other resources for ICU and non-ICU clinicians alike. Thanks to all our industry supporters:
- Abbott Nutrition
- Baxter Nutrition
- Edwards Life Sciences
- Nestle Health Science
- Thermo FisherScientific
Looking into the Future: The future is uncertain in the COVID-19 era, but SCCM is steadfast in its mission to improve care of the critically ill and injured. "While we aren’t sure what lies ahead, I am reassured by the way the entirety of SCCM stepped forward to respond to the pandemic" said SCCM CEO David Martin, CAE, chief executive officer and executive vice-president of the Society. "With ICU professionals united across the globe, we will not only save lives during this outbreak, we will be better than we were, with new knowledge, skills, technologies, behaviors, and systems that lead to improved patient outcomes long-after the pandemic subsides."