Playing soccer taught me skills that are applicable to medicine. I learned how to listen and work collaboratively with the entire care team.
As I was wrapping up a clinical encounter, I asked, “Do you have any other questions?” My patient, who I’d seen a few times, beamed at me and said, “None! You have a very clear and simple way of explaining things. Thanks for always being so attentive.”
Soccer has helped me do so. Its’ been a fundamental building block in shaping the person and doctor I am today. It instilled traits that fueled my drive to succeed as a doctor and future surgeon. Here are a few lesser-known soccer skills that never fail to come in handy in caring for patients:
1. Observe your surroundings.
In soccer, keeping your head up when dribbling is important. It allows you to continuously scan the field, identify your teammates, and see potential goal opportunities.
When you enter the patient’s room, scan your surroundings. Often, they show signs of being worried. Observe their facial expressions and register the necessary cues to tailor your care. Scan the room for tissues and nearby chairs to sit next to your patient.
“Pass it! I’m with you, on the line!” If you don’t listen to your teammates, you won’t be able to attend to their needs and create the right breaks for the team.
Similarly, in medicine, most of your history-taking comes from listening closely to your patients. It’s less about the checklist and more about the story they tell while you ask the right questions. The diagnosis is often in the patient’s history. Take the time to listen.
Successful soccer teams have a well-established friendly and constructive environment that promotes communication. At the beginning of the season, the coaching staff sets the objectives for the league. Players communicate their concerns and then goals are refined accordingly.
In the hospital, the clinician and patient are a team. Patients need to feel safe to share their concerns. Then you can make a plan together.
If you want your team to win, recognize the details that make all the difference. Scan the room, listen to your patient, and meticulously craft and communicate patient-specific care.
This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.