Reinvention of an academic anaesthesiology department during pandemic times: lessons learnt and adapting to a “new normal”
Conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted many aspects of medical practice. Responding to this crisis has required health systems to rapidly address a multitude of concerns, including workforce safety, staff redeployment, supply shortages and physical space restructuring. The pace of change created by new information and evolving conditions has proven challenging for traditionally-structured academic departments in medicine. Pandemic medicine requires a nimbleness in decisionmaking, clarity of communication and comprehensiveness of services that may demand a temporary rearrangement of leadership structure and clinical service delivery. Furthermore, the uncertain nature of a pandemic may require reinstitution and dissolution of services as demand sporadically either rises or falls. As the global medical community continues to respond to what may be multiple COVID-19 peaks stretching over months or years, it is important that approaches to preparation and management of the pandemic are shared to enable the identification of best practices and an effective response. With the availability of open access and free communication technologies, these strategies can be easily shared among the global anaesthesia community. The approach outlined here represents one way to organise leadership and streamline communication in order to reinvent an academic department to match the dynamic requirements of crisis conditions. We describe our experience in offering new services such as an airway team, COVID-19 simulation training and personal protective equipment testing, as well as our approach to evaluating the rapid flow of research findings related to SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. We summarise lessons learnt and our adaptation to what may be a “new normal” in anaesthesiology practice.
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