Arena Strive

Re-prioritizing the Clinician: The Arena Labs Story


Arena Labs was founded in 2016 by Brian Ferguson, a former Navy SEAL, with the mission of reimagining the way frontline clinicians train, mentally and physically, for the unprecedented levels of stress and pressure across the rapidly-changing landscape of healthcare.

Ferguson grew up in the world of healthcare. His mother, Martha, was a registered nurse and spent the majority of her career in operating and recovery rooms. Ferguson often talks about his family dining room table, where he vividly remembers Martha recounting her day and being fascinated by how much she loved something beyond their family and household. Most importantly, Ferguson remembers the days that something went wrong in the operating room, or the rare times Martha observed a patient pass away, and how deeply she was impacted or unable to decouple her life outside the hospital from those intense, stressful moments.

Inspired by his mother’s passion, Ferguson set out on a path to medicine and shadowed an orthopedic surgeon to prepare for medical school; but, instead, he pivoted to a career in national security, where he worked in the White House and Pentagon in special operations just after September 11th and learned how large societal institutions like the U.S. Government and military grappled with adapting to 21st-century realities.

Arena Strive: Data + Content + Coaching

Martha Ferguson, a registered nurse, spent most of her career in the operating room and PACU

Arena Strive: Data + Content + Coaching

Ferguson shadows an orthopedic surgeon in 1995

Ferguson refers to his military service as a “renaissance in human factors;” he saw massive investments made in world-class tools and training to help special operators manage their stress, improve rest, and enhance their performance in order to adapt to the high-tempo pace and the heavy physical and mental tolls.

In 2015, Ferguson was working on a project to bring emerging technology into special operations to advance human performance, where he collaborated and researched alongside professional athletes, with Red Bull’s High Performance Program, Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction laboratory, and the Cleveland Clinic.

Ferguson spent significant time inside Cleveland Clinic’s operating rooms observing several heart surgeries. He noticed that while the technological advancement of modern medicine was impressive, there was little to no focus on cultivating human factors or training medical teams for their high-pressure, high-stakes environments. Ferguson posed the question: If other demanding occupations and disciplines like the military had invested billions of dollars in research, studies, and training to help their members adapt to chronic stress, why aren’t those same training and tools extended to healthcare workers?

In 2016, Ferguson began working with the Cleveland Clinic to build a “Surgical Performance Program” to bring the science of performance into their world-class heart surgery institutions; from there, he founded Arena Labs and a new, disruptive approach to healthcare was born: High Performance Medicine.®

High Performance Medicine®

High Performance Medicine® (HPM) is an innovative approach to modern healthcare, grounded in the belief that frontline medical teams require the same tools, training, and data leveraged by other teams who perform in high-stakes, high-consequence environments– like elite military, Olympic and professional athletes, creative performers, and more. Its guiding principle is that the stressors of modern medicine cannot be removed; however, clinicians can be trained to adapt and improve their capacity to manage stress.

HPM applies proven stress, energy, and recovery management methodologies from the field of performance science– the study of the body’s cognitive and physical systems and how they adapt to high-stress stimuli in order to perform optimally. Drawing on a multitude of scientific disciplines, including neuroscience, physiology, psychology, and circadian biology, HPM implements tools, frameworks, and data to optimize how frontline clinicians’ prepare for, respond to, and recover from high-stress stimuli.

Watch this short video to hear more about High Performance Medicine from Brian Ferguson, CEO and Founder of Arena Labs.

After honing this concept and building an extensive arsenal of research, content development, and actionable practices, Arena Labs launched the world’s first performance coaching platform in 2021, Arena Strive.

Arena Strive

Arena Strive is a mobile-based platform that combines data-backed content, human biometrics, and actionable daily practices to help clinicians build a performance mindset–and flourish inside and outside their medical environments.

How it works:

  • Clinicians wear a sensor daily that analyzes their biometrics, such as heart rate, heart rate variability, and sleep proficiency. Arena Labs is proudly partnered with WHOOP and anonymously aggregates the data analytics received from each clinician.
  • Clinicians are provided a structured performance program that guides them through the pillars of high performance medicine, each containing scientific methodologies (delivered via medical experts and performance ambassadors) across stress adaptation, energy management, and recovery. Clinicians receive actionable practices they can implement daily in under 5 minutes to help in each of these disciplines, with reminders and goal setting capabilities to help keep them accountable.
  • Clinicians assess and self-report how they are feeling on a daily basis, receive weekly data reports that measure and compare how their biometrics change and improve on a day-to-day basis, and receive actionable insights and context to improve their physical and mental routines for optimal performance.
  • Anonymized data reports are then sent to clinical leadership monthly to highlight trends among their staff and teams, with actionable recommendations and insights to improve how they train and support their clinicians.

What’s most important to highlight is that Arena Strive wasn’t solely built to help clinicians be better clinicians, or to “fix” them, as a common misconception in the medical community is that stress or burnout indicates someone is “broken.” Arena Strive’s mission is to help clinicians implement what they learn in both their medical environments and non-medical environments to create a greater sense of self awareness; adapt to any stressful, challenging, or unpredictable stimuli; and leverage these outcomes to drive change across their clinical teams, leadership, organizations, and selves.

To learn more about Arena Labs, its mission, and High Performance Medicine®, stay tuned for upcoming blogs.

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