The time of year that brings friends, family, and colleagues together to cheer and commiserate over brackets and games. When it comes to the final two weekends, it is often the same teams year after year. What can the coaches of great teams teach us about doctoring?
Preparation and fundamentals (John Wooden, UCLA)
The first thing coach John Wooden taught his players was how to put on their shoes and socks. If the socks had any wrinkles, the player was at risk for a blister that could result in loss of playing time. Similarly, if a shoe became untied, a player might need to leave the game. Preparation and attention to fundamentals have significant impacts on performance and outcomes. Before physicians start a visit, we should prepare by reviewing the chart and huddling with others on the care team about issues that need to be addressed. Before starting an encounter, we need to always remember the fundamentals: Knock before entering, introduce ourselves, acknowledge everyone in the room, and converse at eye level with the patient.
Every encounter counts (Bo Ryan, University of Wisconsin)
The most important statistic for coach Bo Ryan is offensive efficiency: not points per game, number of rebounds, or three-point percentage, but what the team does with each offensive possession. Similarly, physicians need to make the most of each encounter with a patient. To do this, physicians must employ two essential skills: 1) being present with each patient — leaving everything else (phone calls, in-basket, notes) at the door; and, 2) actively listening.
Caring (Pat Summit, University of Tennessee)
The single most important principle for coach Pat Summit is caring about the players: “They don’t care how much you know, unless they know how much you care.” This equation applies to patient care as well as to working with learners and patient care team members.
Dedication (Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame University)
“They knew their weaknesses, and they worked on those weaknesses. We’ve had good players who came in and worked hard in practice. But after those two hours are over, they leave. The only way you can improve as a player is by what you do on your own. To that extent, I believe players are made over the summer if you put the time in over the summer, when the coaches aren’t allowed to be there, that’s when you really see the improvement.”
The wonderful and, at the same time, daunting aspect of medicine is that we cannot know everything, However, we can always improve by identifying our weaknesses, seeking out CME, and developing lifelong learning skills.
Teamwork (Mike Krzyzewski, Duke University)
“There are five fundamental qualities that make every team great: communication, trust, collective responsibility, caring, and pride.”
As health care moves more and more towards team-based care, we need to apply these same fundamentals.
Passion (Jim Valvano, North Carolina State University)
“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”
We are truly blessed to be in a profession where there are so many “full days.”
Melissa Stiles is a family physician.