How sports allegiances can enhance patient-physician relationships

Sanitized, technical conversations that often fill hospital rooms are undoubtedly a necessary part of patient-physician interactions, but Victoria Wytiaz, MD, oncology fellow at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, argues that conversations that go beyond the walls of a hospital room can be just as powerful when it comes to care.

"In inviting conversations that step outside of the world of cancer, I have learned to appreciate that just as I have different passions, so too, do my patients, and there is often overlap which further strengthens the physician-patient bond," she wrote in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Dr. Wytiaz has herself been a Pittsburgh sports fan for years and wears a rotating assortment of team lanyards while working, often sparking patients to ask her about it and share their own allegiances. 

"Comments on my professional sports allegiance are often the first words spoken to me by many patients and set a comfortable tone, even if our allegiances differ," she wrote. 

Sports fandom is something researchers have found to be "psychologically healthy," Daniel Wann, PhD, a professor at Murray (Ky.) State University previously told CNBC News. The fierce loyalty and sense of belonging sports fans have is something that can boost confidence and raise happiness levels, the outlet reported. 

Dr. Wytiaz noted in her article that discussing lighthearted topics like this with her patients is something she always looks forward to and that makes her feel like a better provider herself.

"For patients, the drive to discuss something other than their diagnosis or treatment speaks to a deep desire for normalcy at a time and place that is anything but normal," she wrote. "Recognizing a shared interest or experience with a patient can present an opportunity for an enhanced physician-patient bond, provided that this is guided by the patient's needs and pursued on their own terms."

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