Physician Qualities Beyond a Degree
IN A NUTSHELL:
- Organization and communication skills important
- Physicians must have an empathetic personality
- Optimism an important physician trait
It goes without saying that getting accepted into medical school requires a fair amount of intelligence, followed by a high level of motivation to get through the challenging years to graduate and complete residency.
While the consistent determination and high level of intelligence certainly matters in a physician’s career, it is the decades of actively working in their chosen scope of practice which demands several personality traits in order to succeed.
- Communication Skills
In order to succeed, some of the best physicians are also some of the best communicators. Of course, verbal and written communication is essential for patient interaction and leading a team of nurses and other providers. Yet being a good listener is also a crucial aspect of being a good communicator and ultimately a successful physician.
- Organizational Skills
The work of a physician goes far beyond caring for their patients. While it may vary depending upon their scope of practice, physicians often must complete a fair amount of administrative work to maintain licenses and valid credentials. This is in addition to updating a patient’s medical records, keep track of any paperwork concerning patient care, and more. Physicians also must take continuing medical education courses. The studying and learning does not end with medical school. Throughout their careers, physicians must take accredited courses as part of license renewal, as well as participate in research and attend various conferences. With so many responsibilities in different areas, having organizational skills is an essential trait of a quality physician.
While it may be considered a subset of good communication, physicians must be able to make patients feel like they are truly cared for on a personal level. Empathy is a way of building rapport and establishing good working relationships between providers and their patients. A good physician knows how to make a patient know their concerns are valid, that they are being heard, and most importantly understood. Professional qualifications are still important, yet patients are more concerned with knowing that their physician cares for them than what their GPA was or how many first-author journal publications they have under their belt.
It may not be easy, especially if there is bad news concerning a patient’s health, yet being honest with patients should be second nature for a physician. In fact, it is part of the American Medical Association’s Code of Ethics under Withholding Information From Patients, which reads, in-part:
“Truthful and open communication between physician and patient is essential for trust in the relationship and for respect for autonomy. Withholding pertinent medical information from patients in the belief that disclosure is medically contraindicated creates a conflict between the physician’s obligations to promote patient welfare and to respect patient autonomy… Except in emergency situations in which a patient is incapable of making an informed decision, withholding information without the patient’s knowledge or consent is ethically unacceptable. When information has been withheld in such circumstances, physicians’ should convey that information once the emergency situation has been resolved.”
Ultimately, honesty is the best policy, especially when a physician uses their good communication skills and expresses genuine empathy toward their patients.
Being optimistic and maintaining grace under pressure may be one of the most difficult qualities to maintain as a physician. Hospital medicine is among the fastest-growing health care specialties in the country, and with that comes a rapid rise in the rate of physician burnout.
A national survey found that hospitalists were most satisfied with the quality of care they provided as well as their relationships with other staff members. The study found that the hospitalists were least satisfied with organizational climate, autonomy, compensation, and availability of personal time.
All of these negative factors can contribute to physician burnout, which is characterized by emotional exhaustion and a reduced sense of accomplishment.
When a physician experiences emotional exhaustion, they often feel overextended and depleted of their own emotional and physical resources. Reduced personal accomplishment is characterized by negative self-appraisal, inefficiency in work responsibilities, and feelings of incompetence.