Multiple Patients on a Ventilator: FAIL

Sometimes medicine behaves like the stock market; a whole bunch of enthusiasm followed by a realistic pullback. This has now occurred with the concept of using one ventilator for multiple patients. I agree that we need to use some ingenuity in this crisis, but this one never sat well with me, hence me not commenting on it at all until now. Too many nuances go into oxygenating and ventilating patients with ARDS. I understand trying this to hold down the fort in a severe crunch, and I tip my hat to those who created the articles and YouTube videos. I’m not trying to be a contrarian or a Debbie Downer.

This statement was put out by the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM), American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC), American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation (ASPF), American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), and American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST).

Amongst things mentioned here, to put multiple patients on a ventilator, all patients would need to be paralyzed for this to maybe work. What happens after the 48 hours of paralytics runs it course and they can’t play nice on the vent anymore? One always needs an exit strategy. This is something I always teach when taking care of patients in the ICU. I digress, the list provided shows some other safety reasons.

We need to continue thinking outside the box, though, to save all the lives we can. I have never seen our community come together so well. We have done a great job supporting each other. Many have said it already and I agree with them, many of us are going to come out of this psychologically altered. Many of us are, what some would call, jaded in things of life and death. It’s part of our daily lives in Critical Care. But this is taking that to another extreme. I appreciate the support that I have received from the community as well. Hope to keep providing you all with great content.

To read about many other things COVID that I have covered over the last several months, click here.


Link to ASA Position Statement

Link to SCCM Position Statement

Link to PDF

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