If you’re considering studying medicine, you will surely want to know the difference between how to be a doctor and how to be a good doctor. Becoming a doctor is not something that happens overnight – it is a serious commitment which takes years to qualify and leads into a lifelong profession. Before you apply to study medicine, we think that you need to know which personality traits are essential to being a caring and successful doctor, so we’ve compiled this list of six essential traits that will help you to be a great doctor and help you to see if you are you cut out to study medicine! This is by no means all that you will need to be a good doctor, but it is a step in the right direction if you feel that you already possess most of these traits. If not, then you know what you should look to develop before you begin studying medicine.
A good doctor should be…
It is of the utmost importance that you behave professionally in all your conduct. Your medical education will probably involve a discussion about what professionalism means and what you need to do in practice, but there are a couple of key concepts which are universal.
Doctor-patient confidentiality is extremely important. It is a fundamental strand of medical ethics. This also involves maintaining a professional distance from your patients. They need to feel safe in your company to disclose information at their discretion, and they need to be sure that anything they say will not leave your office.
Q. Are you bad at keeping secrets and a bit of a gossip?
If so then perhaps this is not the profession for you.
Equally important is respect and fairness. A good doctor must be able to treat all patients equally, regardless of their ethnicity, lifestyle choices or conduct. Your job is to treat your patients, not to judge them. You never know who may be the next person to walk into your waiting room may be – whether it is a member of the royal family or a down on their luck homeless man, it is important to give each patient the same care and attention that you would expect from your doctor if you were in their shoes.
Doctors must maintain their professionalism at work at all times
Research has shown that patients who feel that their doctor has made a genuine empathetic connection – an attempt to understand how they feel and how their condition is affecting their everyday life – will actually experience a reduction in pain. If a patient feels they are being cared for by the right doctor who has taken an interest in their wellbeing, their body will suppress their awareness of the pain and they will experience a faster recovery.
Conversely, the stress of having a bad doctor who doesn’t show an interest can actually prolong the patient’s suffering. Empathy is a very powerful thing and is an essential part of any doctor’s bedside manner.
Q. Do you find it easy to understand the problems of your friends, even if there is nothing that you can do to help them with them?
If so, this is a good sign that you have a higher than average level of empathy which is required to be a good doctor.
Some doctors will try to get as many patients through their door as possible. They will rush appointments and make quick decisions. This is often because they are trying to reach targets or avoid long queues in their waiting room, but it’s not always best for the patients.
A good doctor will ask a few more questions than they need to and spend longer with their patients and build a bit of a rapport. This will help the patient to be honest with the doctor, making it much easier for them to diagnose any illness or ailment.
You might find that you have a rough idea of what is wrong with your patient within the first minute of their visit, but until you’ve dug deeper and got a real understanding of their situation, you will not be able to treat them to the best of your ability. Going the extra mile and treating each patient as an individual rather than a statistic is a key part of being a doctor and is something that will help you to avoid any complications caused by taking shortcuts.
Q. Do you complete your homework to the best of your abilities or just enough to get it done and get a good mark?
Doing more than may be required is part of the job of being a doctor – it’s certainly no 9-5 office job and you shouldn’t think of it as such.
The medical industry is changing all the time and it’s important that you are prepared to keep up to date with new findings, innovative research and emerging theories at all times. Even once you have graduated, you shouldn’t stop learning. You also need to be analytical about everything you read. There are a few famous examples of medical discoveries which have changed the way a lot of professionals operate, which have later gone on to be discredited. The impact of these mistakes are huge and, in some cases, are still being felt a whole generation later.
Nobody expects you to be perfect or right all of the time, but it is essential that you are able to understand the impact of mistakes or poor judgement and keep your knowledge up to date.
Q. Could you be as enthusiastic about the latest medical papers as you are about your favourite band’s new album?
It’s vital that you keep up to date with things like the British Medical Journal (BMJ) – you may discover a new procedure that could save your patients life, read about a case which inspires your diagnosis or discover a conference where you can develop in your specialist field.
Medical professionals work with the human body every day and it isn’t always pleasant. There can often be unfamiliar situations and it can sometimes be quite gruesome too: this is especially true for medics working in an accident and emergency ward or surgeons working in an operating theatre.
It is important that you are able to cope with these situations to deal with situations calmly and thoughtfully. You must have a clear head so that you are able to make good, swift decisions when required. By doing this and by staying calm, the patient and their family can see that you are in control of the situation and they will find it easier to trust you.
Q. Do you find yourself to be indecisive, or conversely quick to jump to rash decisions? Are you easily rattled?
If so, this is something for you to work on before considering a career as a doctor.
Dealing with some of the worst cases are the A&E department, working with the ambulance teams of paramedics
People always need health care; no matter what time of the day or what day of the year, someone will need medical attention. Working in the medical profession often means working long hours, weekends and holidays. You may frequently face understaffing issues and odds are that most days you are going to have to work extremely hard.
Q. Are you the type of person who stays until something is finished, or would you leave something incomplete to get away on time?
Unfortunately, people can’t always be ill when you’re on the clock. Sometimes you will need to stay late to finish your rounds, check in on your patient or complete an emergency operation. This is possibly the most cut and dry of the traits – if you are not willing to be hard-working then you will not make a good doctor and should not spend your time and money training to be one.
In addition to good job prospects after university and a reasonable starting salary and package for junior doctors, studying medicine at university is a very interesting, engaging and fulfilling way to spend your time, where you will learn a lot about yourself and how you work, even if you do not decide to pursue a career in the area of medicine. A 5-year course is a serious commitment but it could set you up for life with the skill required to join the honourable profession of medicine.