In this article, we take forward sociological ways of knowing care-in-practice, in particular work in critical care. To do so, we analyse the experiences of staff working in critical care during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. This moment of exception throws into sharp relief the ways in which work and place were reconfigured during conditions of pandemic surge, and shows how critical care depends at all times on the co-constitution of place, practices and relations. Our analysis draws on sociological and anthropological work on the material culture of health care and its sensory instantiations. Pursuing this through a study of the experiences of 40 staff across four intensive care units (ICUs) in 2020, we provide an empirical and theoretical elaboration of how place, body work and care are mutually co-constitutive. We argue that the ICU does not exist independently of the constant embodied work of care and place-making which iteratively constitute critical care as a total system of relations.


This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Cite as

Docherty, A., Humphreys, S., McCulloch, C., Pattison, N., Sturdy, S. & Montgomery, C. 2023, 'Remaking critical care: Place, body work and the materialities of care in the COVID intensive care unit', Sociology of Health & Illness. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9566.13708

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Last updated: 22 September 2023
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