“Our entire workflow in the hospital has been altered and will stay so until we get a vaccine or treatment…”
Dr. Michael Orosco is a lead anesthesiologist in San Diego, and his team is on the frontlines directly treating patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. He and his partner, Dr. Annie Park, introduced their 100 person group to the Oura Ring months ago as part of the development of a new safety protocol. In the process, their group has come up with a unique way to motivate the team by gamifying their Oura data into a March Madness sleep bracket.
A New Normal
During these times, anesthesiologists don’t have the luxury of relying on the comfort of their past experience and expertise because with COVID-19, they are in uncharted territory. Where before a routine airway emergency would elicit little trepidation, now every call comes with the concern that it could be a COVID-19 patient.
“When you have a patient that has COVID-19, you need to make sure that during your procedure the smallest amount of virus is aerosolized as possible to keep the contamination risk low. That means moving as fast as possible to get the breathing tube in and place the patient on the ventilator…”
While we are all sheltering in place, first responders like Dr. Orosco seem to always be on guard with this “new normal.” Their jobs, their mindsets, and their lives have changed permanently.
“Those who go into our field are generally a pretty steely bunch, and enjoy the critical moments. It takes a lot to shake us. With COVID-19, another level of fear has entered our daily work experience. I have heard people say, ‘well they knew the risks when they signed up.’ Well we didn’t sign up to be Navy Seals. This is completely different, there is no playbook, and worldwide first responders have died of this infection.”
From Sleep Deprivation to Prioritization
What counts the most now is how these physicians prioritize their own health.
“From the rigors of medical school and our training we have become hardwired to push ourselves to our physical limits – we learned that if you couldn’t function well while fatigued, then you weren’t cut out for this job. We’ve been functioning on that level for years. The pandemic was a wakeup since our sleep was vital to keep our immune systems healthy, and sleep is what we often sacrifice.”
The pandemic was Dr. Orosco’s “wakeup” moment, where he and his team realized they needed to make a change. For many of his colleagues, this was the first time in years their job demanded of them not to go without sleep but to prioritize sleep in order to stay healthy.
“There aren’t as many procedures right now – our work volume has been down to 40% of normal—we have to focus on COVID-19 care (intubation, extubations) and emergencies to conserve our resources…”
Extra time is not something often associated with high-level physicians, but, for the first time in years, Dr. Orosco and his colleagues had it. They knew they needed to shift some of their focus to their personal health—sleep was the answer, and Oura was his next move.
Relying on Sleep For Safety
As part of deploying Oura Rings to his staff, Dr. Orosco is developing a safety protocol to ensure his team stays on top of their health while they’re caught in the crossfire on the front lines.
“I have a 100 person team and the whole goal of using Oura was to help us keep tabs on our team’s health so we could be healthy enough to stay available to care for patients as members of our group had to take a break . We’re developing a safety protocol because we can’t hire outside of our team – this is it. There are no reinforcements to call if a number of us were to get sick.”
“For us, Oura’s Sleep score is invaluable. It brought us back to the basics. I was adhering to all kinds of creative solutions people offered up to me such as using essential oils, taking multivitamins I’ve never taken before, leaving my clothes in the garage when I get home… but at the end of the day we’re doctors and we know that so much of our immune system comes down to good food, exercise, and sleep. It’s our bodies that have to get us through this and protect us. We have accepted that there is a high risk we will be exposed, and when that time comes, our immune system will be our savior.”
The Oura Sleep Score March Madness Bracket
Monitoring their Sleep Scores has not only helped them boost their immune systems, but it has also brought them closer together as a team by delivering some much needed peace of mind.
To keep morale high, his team has come up with fun, unique ways to keep themselves focused on their scores and health.
“The most creative thing we’ve done is reinvent March Madness for Sleep scores! There are some pretty fanatic basketball fans here and we were all bummed that we couldn’t do brackets until someone tossed out the idea of motivating each other to submit our sleep scores and see who can take it “all the way”. The whole point of the bracket was to influence and encourage people to take their sleep seriously.”
With Oura, Dr. Orosco and his team have found a silver lining in their new reality and are now doing what they can to stay on top of their own health while on the front lines. The health of our first responders should be one of our highest priorities, and, as he’s still in the trenches of the battle against COVID-19, Dr. Orosco leaves all of us at home with a message:
“The healthier my team stays, the better they will operate because nobody has any room for us to fail right now. My Anesthesia team has to stay healthy so that we can work and be there for patients and our city. This has been a reset for us and helped us focus on our own health, so that we can better serve the healing of those around us. This is the new normal, and our refocus might be some good that comes out of it.”
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