Doctor’s corner: an interview with Joyce Sombroek

Joyce Sombroek is a professional athlete and General Practitioner trainee. She chose to go into medicine in order to help people and satisfy her unending curiosity on the capabilities of the human body.

She is currently training to be a General practitioner in the AMC Amsterdam after two years of working experience in the OLVG and Amstelland hospital. She became a hockey goalkeeper at the age of 12 and has been a professional athlete for 14 years. She is a European and World Champion and has won a gold and silver medal at the Olympics. Joyce was twice voted best goalkeeper in the world.

When asked what being a professional athlete has taught her as a General Practitioner and what rules or knowledge from sporting could she apply to her work, Joyce explained that there are lots of similarities between medicine and athletics, as both environment have very motivated and disciplined individuals and there is a need for proper communication in order to work effectively. About the differences, she mentioned that she would appreciate if there was more team building, support for each other and general understanding of oneself in the work environment as it is possible in sports.

“Your mindset is really important. Focus on your task and only try to influence the things that you can control. When I was a goalkeeper at the Olympic finals, and I had to stop several shootouts, of course, I had to focus to be able to perform under pressure. I think that helped me as a doctor as well.”

As regards her view on the healthcare system and how it can be improved on, Joyce suggested that communication should be improved upon in the workplace in order to improve the quality of care given to patients. She also advocated on the use of technology to improve the quality of health care services and reduce its cost. While still maintaining the personal touch, use of e-health facilities and gadgets can provide means to help patients maintain very important healthy habits and exercising routines.

“I really like to help people stay active, eat healthy, and to feel connected through social means. How you are feeling physically and mentally is very important. Prevention is something we should all invest in.”

Furthermore, Joyce stated that quickly after she started working in a new medical environment, her team started witnessing patients with various symptoms of the disease: pain in the chest and other symptoms. Patients were attended to and those with symptoms related to Covid19 were sent to a regional hospital if necessary.

Asked how the crisis affected her team, Joyce responded that it was tough mainly because there was a lot of uncertainty. She is part of a new team and a lot of information was coming in, so there was quite some processing and adjustments to be made. There was a lot of on the field learning, but she is encouraged by the quick formation of teams, as well as a level of trust and comradery.

About the question focused on dealing with patients and method she uses to communicate with patients displaying the symptoms in order to keep them calm, Joyce agreed it has been quite a challenge. It is difficult to reassure people by phone or when you are all covered up, especially since there can be an acute deterioration a few days later. She pointed out that there has been synergy amongst fellow health workers as regards to fighting the pandemic and encouraging each other. Also the situation has been quite stable in the Netherlands for the past month.

“I think in general we will reconsider things like: can we work from home a bit more, how much do we have to travel, reconsider, you know, shaking hands. I found it a fun fact you see a lot less gastro-enteritis and other viral infectionsbecause people wash their hands better, people keep their distance. So I think healthcare, and life in general, will stay different for quite a while, and I think we will use more of the digital options. My general practitioner training is on Zoom now as well.”

Regarding her opinion on the pharmaceutical industry and the way they can help medical professionals, Joyce explained that it’s very necessary that research is being carried out and knowledge properly shared amongst health workers. It often takes a long time for things to become widespread. As regard the role of Telemedicine and virtual healthcare, she mentioned that a lot of innovative strategies are being implemented quicker due to the corona virus. For example, her health care center receives lots of calls and send health tips using emails and other digital means. Joyce advocates that innovative means for reaching out to sick patients should be devised and properly implemented.

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