Mental Practice: Applying Successful Strategies in Sports to the Practice of Emergency Medicine

Ann Emerg Med. 2024 Jan 17:S0196-0644(23)01434-8. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2023.12.011. Online ahead of print.


Emergency physicians are expected to learn and maintain a large and varied set of competencies for clinical practice. These include high acuity, low occurrence procedures that may not be encountered frequently in the clinical environment and are difficult to practice with high fidelity and frequency in a simulated environment. Mental practice is a form of a cognitive walk-through that has been shown to be an effective method for improving motor and cognitive skills, with literature in sports science and emerging evidence supporting its use in medicine. In this article, we review the literature on mental practice in sports and medicine as well as the underlying neuroscientific theories that support its use. We review best-known practices and provide a framework to design and use mental imagery scripts to augment learning and maintaining the competencies necessary for physicians at all levels of training and clinical environments in the practice of emergency medicine.