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Archive June 2020 XXI, No. 6

Editor's Page

Ahead of the Curve

Daniel Cook

Daniel Cook, Editor-in-Chief

BIO

Being forced to quarantine at home during the coronavirus outbreak has been relatively easy to manage. Can’t go to work. Can’t hang out with friends and family. Can’t go to restaurants or ballgames.

Now comes the hard part. As lockdowns begin to lift across the nation, “yellow” risk designations will create a gray area between maintaining the progress we’ve made to limit the spread of COVID-19 and letting us all get back to living relatively normal lives. The lessening of social restrictions will vary in different regions of the nation, across sections of states and even among neighboring communities. We’ll each have our own beliefs about how to safely reacclimate to a changed society.

I’m wondering how long that will take. While talking to several surgical leaders for this month’s cover story about how they’re managing the reopening of ORs during a worldwide pandemic, I was struck by the number of additional steps their staffs and surgical teams must take just to perform a single case. The way you work now is decidedly different than when you left. But you’re adapting, and finding new ways to provide excellent patient care under the most difficult of circumstances.

The COVID-19 outbreak has challenged us all to work differently, and perhaps smarter. My wife and I sit in front of dueling laptops at the kitchen table, timing bursts of productivity between yells for juice boxes and Netflix shows. Working remotely has actually made me more organized. I’m forced to compare a week’s worth of virtual meetings with my wife’s schedule so I know when I’ll be able to sneak away to work in a quiet part of the house. I’m more efficient with my time, knowing I have to capitalize on those precious few minutes of uninterrupt...

“Daddy, look at me!”

Hold on, that’s my daughter. She’s leaning her head against the back of the couch and pointing to a Rold Gold perched between her eyes. “I can balance a pretzel on my nose!”

Who knew?

“My girl! That’s amazing!”

Now where was I?

Surgical care is built on human connection. You work shoulder to shoulder in close-knit teams to deliver patient-centered care. Surgery can’t be Skyped or Zoomed or Teamed. That’s not the case in many other professions, whose workers have been forced to find out what’s possible in the digital realm.

I’m a recent convert to the benefits of working remotely, which I’ve been doing for three months. It now seems impractical to scramble out the door to fight rush hour traffic for 40 minutes just to flip open my laptop in an office. I’ve crossed over from feeling out of place working in my house to forgetting what it was like to drive back and forth to a workspace that’s starting to feel obsolete. Working from home is hard, but so is the grind of commuting to an office every day. Work is work and results are results, regardless of where they happen.

During virtual editorial team meetings interrupted by home life, we see each other as people instead of peers. We’ve forged a bond while working together during this historic time and have a shared experience that will never be forgotten. Maintaining a social distance has actually made me feel closer to my team. They’re who I miss.

Karen Curley, RN, who I interviewed for the cover story, told me one of her staff members walked into the OR on her first day back at work and said she was happy to be home with her team. When we get the green light to return to our brick and mortar office, I’ll dust off my travel mug. I’m ready to meet up with my teammates at our home away from home. OSM

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