“The Last Line Separating the Sick from the Dead:” Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center ICU Medical Director Reflects on Hardships of Being a Healthcare Worker Directly Treating COVID-19 Patients

Jeffrey C. Munson, MD, MSCE, is seen working in the Medical Intensive Care Unit of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, surrounded by several colleagues.

I will treat everyone in my care with compassion, because no one deserves what COVID does.

Jeffrey C. Munson, MD, MSCE, Medical Director of the MICU

A friend of mine in our Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) today asked me for some good news about COVID-19. Anything. His question made me appreciate how much we all want and need something good to center on, and how little there is to share.

I am tired. I am frustrated. I am sad. And in the midst of this, it sometimes feels like all I ever see is people talking about what other people should do to make things better. I don't have good news, but I can try to change the last part. Rather than saying what I think everyone else should do, I want to say out loud what I am willing to do.

I will wear my mask. Sometimes to protect me, always to protect you. I will get my third shot. And my fourth, and my fifth if it comes to that. Because in my world of million-dollar technology, this shot is still the most effective way to keep people alive.

I will come to work every day and take care of anyone who is sick in my unit. I don't care if they are vaccinated, unvaccinated, rich, poor, Black, white, brown, gay, straight, Republican, Democrat or Independent. I will put on whatever mask, face shield, gown and gloves I need to come to their bedside and help. I will learn as much as I can, so that when you are sick, I can promise we are doing everything that can be done to save your life.

I will support my peers in the MICU in any way I can. Because, like me, they are tired, they are frustrated, and they are sad. And because they are not only the front line; they are the last line separating the sick from the dead.

I will treat everyone in my care with compassion, because no one deserves what COVID does. And for those who cannot survive, I will do everything I can to ensure that they do not suffer, and I will grieve their loss.

This is my part to play, and I accept it. I accept it because it is what I can do in a time when the need for doing is so great. And I accept it because I stood in front of my family, my peers, and my community and promised that I would care for the sick.

-Jeffrey C. Munson, MD, MSCE, Medical Director of the MICU

About Dartmouth-Hitchcock

DARTMOUTH-HITCHCOCK HEALTH (D-HH), New Hampshire’s only academic health system and the state’s largest private employer, serves a population of 1.9 million across Northern New England. D-H provides access to more than 2,400 providers in almost every area of medicine, delivering care at its flagship hospital, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) in Lebanon, NH. DHMC was named in 2019 as the #1 hospital in New Hampshire by U.S. News & World Report, and recognized for high performance in 13 clinical specialties and procedures. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health also includes the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, one of only 51 NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation; the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, the state’s only children’s hospital; affiliated member hospitals in Lebanon, Keene, and New London, NH, and Windsor, VT, and Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire; and 24 Dartmouth-Hitchcock clinics that provide ambulatory services across New Hampshire and Vermont. The D-H system trains nearly 400 residents and fellows annually, and performs world-class research, in partnership with the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and the White River Junction VA Medical Center in White River Junction, VT.