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How to humanise the COVID-19 intensive care units
  1. Veronica Rivi1,
  2. Gabriele Melegari2,
  3. Johanna M.C. Blom1,3
  1. 1Department of Biomedical, Metabolic and Neural Sciences, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Modena, Italy
  2. 2Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria di Modena, Modena, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
  3. 3Centre of Neuroscience andNeurotechnology, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Modena, Italy, Modena, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Dr Veronica Rivi, Department of Biomedical, Metabolic and Neural Sciences, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Modena, Italy; veronica.rivi{at}

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The COVID-19 is altering the way patients and families endure illness and death. To mitigate the spread of the virus, patient isolation and visitor restrictions in hospitals have been implemented at a scale never seen before. This means that once hospitalised, patients are isolated from their families until discharge. There remains a sort of undefined mental space of wondering if this is a temporary separation or a step towards final departure.1 2 At the same time, outside the hospitals, there are the relatives of patients waiting anxiously for updates. In some cases, because of the exposure to patients, they are quarantined and may live with the feelings of guilt and anxiety of having unwittingly contributed to the spread of the illness.

This traumatic separation could make both patients and relatives vulnerable to different degrees of stress disorders as well as depression and anxiety.3 Because these symptoms will likely continue even after the pandemic has subsided, virtual and/or on-site psychological support should be proposed promptly to patients and their families during the hospitalisation and after discharge from the hospital.3

Social isolation during the COVID-19 outbreak also means that patients often die without family and significant others by their side. The patient’ relatives, in turn, are forced to relinquish two important …

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  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it first published. The provenance and peer review statement has been included.

  • Contributors The authors confirm their authorship according to the following criteria: have made substantial contributions to conception and design, or acquisition of data or analysis and interpretation of data; been involved in drafting the manuscript or revising it critically for important intellectual content; given final approval of the version to be published; each author should have participated sufficiently in the work to take public responsibility for appropriate portions of the content; and agreed to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved. VR confirm that all authors agree on the order in which their names will be listed in the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.