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My sons play competitive sports. It is interesting to watch them transition to new teams. It takes a while for their teams to meld; it is fascinating to see how as they start to trust one another, their team improves.

Sometimes they have to play with kids they don’t know well for tournaments or regional teams. When they are on the field, my sons look will look to pass to the kids they know well or have played with for years, even if an unknown teammate is open.

It takes them a while to develop trust of new teammates.  They know the skills of their long-time teammates. They know the speed at which they run, whether they are left or right footed. They know if they will do a right-handed layup or if they shoot three pointers.

They don’t know these things of their new teammates, or the ones they are suddenly playing with.

It’s an interesting phenomenon to watch. The more they get to know their teammates off the field, the more they practice with them, the more they trust them.

The more their team wins.

The similarities to medicine are overwhelming.

Medicine requires a large number of teams. A physician may spend her day with multiple teams – made up of different groups. Nurses. Technicians. Pharmacists. Physicians. Physical therapists. Perfusionists. Multiple people, each with different skills, must trust one another to take care of a single patient.

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Our teams in medicine are rarely static. They are fluid and dynamic.  Work schedules, call burdens, and staff shortages all require us to trust people we may only have worked with a few times.

Solid teams are built on trust. Trust that if you ask me to do something, I will do it. Trust that if you see me start to make a mistake, or misstep, you will speak up. Trust that if I see something, or feel something is off, I will double, triple and quadruple check with you that it’s right.

It’s easy to trust teammates we know; but as medicine is constantly dynamic, we must trust new people, new staff, trainees, and colleagues.

We must create a culture of trust – and we, as physicians, can lead in this arena. How we treat our work colleagues speaks volumes to how much we trust them, and how much they can trust us.

There have been several times I have caught a team member about to make a mistake. I never hesitate to speak up. And I can tell you that the reverse is also true:  there have been times in my fatigue I have forgotten to do something, or almost gave the wrong dose/drug, and a colleague has stopped me and said “Sasha, do you mean to do that?”

Medicine requires trust. Here’s some tips to build it:

1.     Introduce yourself to your team members. Team members are more likely to voice concerns if they know one another’s name.

2.     Assume positive intent. If someone questions something you are doing, thank them for bringing it to your attention. And putting safety first.

3.     Ask openly if anyone has concerns. If you sense tension, address hit head on.

When we build trust amongst our teams, we put patients and their safety above all else.We are more likely to perform better – and our patients win.