The present study investigated the role of mental skills
through the unique lens of current surgeons who had previously served as Olympic athletes, elite musicians, or expert military personnel.
Recent work has demonstrated great potential for mental skills
training in surgery
. However, as a field, we lag far behind other high-performance domains that explicitly train and practice mental skills
to promote optimal performance. Surgery
stands to benefit from this work. First, there is a need to identify which mental skills
might be most useful in surgery
and how they might be best employed.
Using a constructivist grounded theory approach, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 17 surgeons across the United States and Canada who had previously performed at an elite level in sport, music, or the military.
Results: Mental skills
were used both to optimize performance in the moment and longitudinally. In the moment, skills were used proactively
to enter an ideal performance state, and responsively
to address unwanted thoughts or emotions to re-enter an acceptable performance zone. Longitudinally, participants used skills to build expertise
and maintain wellness
Establishing a taxonomy for mental skills
may help in the development of robust mental skills
training programs to promote optimal surgeon wellness and performance.