Are you a good doctor? That’s probably not as easy to answer as you might have thought. What makes a quality doctor and quality health? There are so many factors but it’s hard for a physician to be so sure of himself or herself to confidently answer “yes, I’m a quality doctor” or worse “no, I’m a terrible doctor.” Almost every doctor has lost patients and it’s unlikely that you’ll find a surgeon with a 100% success rate unless they stick to doing simple guaranteed procedures.
Worrying about whether or not they’re good enough for their patients is one of the reasons doctors can be incredibly stressed out up to the point of burnout. A simple mistake can lead to someone’s life, a family losing one of its members, or the loss of a dear friend. That’s too much to handle for anyone. No amount of training can ever make losing a patient OK and truth be told it shouldn’t. Doctors should always seek perfection despite being sure that they will never reach it. It’s why advancements are made in medicine in order to assure the best quality of health for patients. As a doctor you should also know you’re not just doing it for a guilt free conscience, but because someday you or someone you love may fall ill and will require the best health service. Let’s take a look at some of the traits and features that make a quality physician.
First of all you need to be the best you can be as a physician. You need to be an amazing clinician and know your medical text. It’s also important to stay up to date with all that’s new in the world of medicine. By the time you’re done with your residency so much of what you learned back in med school may change and become outdated. Subscribing to journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine is essential at the very least to learn the latest when it comes to your specialty. Completing CME (continuous medical education) activities will also keep you on your toes as well as give you the opportunity to meet other top physicians in their specialties. The next items to make you a quality doctor will certainly make you a more likeable physician and overall a better professional, but if you have these attributes without being a very good doctor then you probably won’t get very far.
Empathy comes next but is of no less importance than knowledge. It’s the ability to understand what your patients go through emotionally and express that to them. One of my psychiatry professors always says “empathy, not sympathy” and there’s a difference between them. To be empathetic is to understand the emotions of another person but to be sympathetic is to feel the same way. Sympathy is not a suitable thing to aim for because you have so many patients who are in pain and suffering. If you feel the suffering of each patient you meet then you’re going to suffer yourself and not be able to be focused and do your job impartially. On the other hand empathy will make you closer to your patients while keeping your objectivity. Sometimes patients may recover faster if they feel like their doctor really cares for them and their wellbeing while making a patient feel like you don’t care about their health can actually have a negative impact.
While we’re on the topic of caring about patients it’s important to always remember that they’re people who need your care and attention. Do not think of them as a way to make money or a way to boost your statistics. Give your patients the time they deserve. We’ve all been to a doctor who made us feel rushed and spent very little time with us. Even if you know what’s wrong with a patient straightaway never make them feel like their time with you is running out. Ask a few more questions and show you care. Listen to see if they have questions themselves. If I go to a doctor and leave his or her office with some questions on my mind that weren’t answered I’m probably never going back to that office again.
Being a little personal will improve your relationship with your patients. It really makes a difference to a patient when you call them by their name as they walk in. It doesn’t matter if you just read their file before they came into your office; they don’t need to know that. They’ll appreciate that you remember them and feel closer to you.
Keeping an open mind and have a lust for education are important as well and fall in line with being a great physician. As you know new discoveries are made in medicine every single month. Medicine now is very very different from what it was over 50 years ago and I’m sure that in 50 years it’ll be very different from what it is today. That’s why it’s important to keep an open mind and be flexible when it comes to work. Sticking to information written in a 20 year old textbook and refusing to listen to new discoveries will only hurt your practice and your patients. Subscribe and read medical journals. It’ll also save you some embarrassment if a patient comes in having read up on a new treatment on the internet.
One of the main characteristics a doctor should have is to be calm. I doubt you’ve ever met a frenzied doctor. Maybe during the first few months of residency but afterwards all physicians learn to control their nerves and work under stress. In fact a good doctor is one that excels under stress. Sometimes things don’t work according to plan. For instance a patient may enter cardiac arrest or develop anaphylaxis in response to a medication you gave them. A calm doctor will have the composure to react quickly and correctly while a doctor who loses their nerve won’t be able to think straight. Think of surgeons and the amount of things that can go wrong in an operation. If a patient starts bleeding during an operation a surgeon won’t start screaming, but will calmly search for the bleed and control it. Patients will also find it easier to trust a calm doctor because composure reflects being in control. Who would you rather have treating you, someone who’s all over the place or someone who looks like they know exactly what they’re doing?
There’s no such thing as a lazy doctor. People who are lazy don’t make it as physicians and probably won’t even make it through medical school. For starters during medical school you’ll have a massive amount of studying to do and a load of competitions from your colleagues. Everyone wants to be the top student and the best so everyone is working really hard. Then comes residency and the very long and exhausting hours. Frankly if you’re not up to it you’ll be left behind. Senior doctors will count on the residents who are eager to learn and work. If you want to be lazy then people won’t trust you and you might be kicked out of the program. If you’re doing just enough to stay on then you’re still not getting as much tasks as the more hard working students so you’ll learn less than them. It’s as simple as that.
It’s not easy being a quality doctor, but it’s what almost everyone in the medical field aims for. Even the best doctors will have a hard time admitting or accepting that they’re exceptional doctors because they feel like they can do more and that there’s room for improvement. Don’t be discouraged because you can’t reach perfection but keep working toward it and your patients will definitely love you for it.