There are over a million licensed doctors in the US alone who help people improve their overall health and well-being. But what kind of personality does it take to withstand the stress the healthcare profession can bring?
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in the medical field, the good news is the healthcare industry is booming, and you won’t have any trouble finding employment.
However, it’s best to learn more about what qualities make a good doctor, so you’ll know if this career matches who you are as a person. Once you determine you’re a good fit for this career, you can then learn about the educational requirements.
Are you ready to get started with a career in medicine? Keep reading this guide to learn everything you need to know!
Table of Contents
Qualities of a Good Doctor
While there are many different qualities of a good doctor, it’s best to focus on the main attributes that have the most effect on how you will perform as a doctor. These qualities include the following:
Excellent Communication Skills
The first quality of a good doctor is excellent communication skills. Remember, as a doctor, you’ll have patients coming to you for a specific reason. Your job as a physician is to listen attentively and carefully to their concerns so you can understand more about their symptoms and reach a diagnosis.
A doctor with excellent communication skills should be able to speak to their patients in all types of situations and have skills such as:
- Being honest and straightforward with communication
- Able to offer hope in difficult situations
- Use language patients easily understand
- Empower patients to improve their health
If you need to boost your communication skills, consider taking a course in communications or speech.
Competent in a Variety of Skills
All doctors in the United States must meet a specific level of competence to become licensed physicians. However, being competent in a variety of skills goes much further than that.
No matter what specialty area you end up in, as a doctor, you need to be competent in many different skills. For example, if you specialize as a pelvic surgeon, you’ll need to know everything about performing the Lefort colpocleisis procedure for pelvic organ prolapses and other reconstructive surgeries. Also, you need to keep competent in a basic level of core clinical skills, including clinical assessments and symptoms of illnesses that you may have little experience dealing with.
Don’t forget soft skills like collaborating and effectively leading a healthcare team. Remember, you’ll consistently need to work on your skills by completing continuing education annually to keep your license current.
Ability to Keep Organized
Doctors have incredibly hectic schedules, and it’s common for them to handle multiple situations simultaneously. They often see numerous patients in a day and have to document patient visits as well.
You also have to be able to act quickly in an emergency and keep everything organized at the same time.
Therefore, you’ll need to be able to organize and multitask well as a doctor. Doing this makes all the difference in your patient care.
Compassion and Empathy
It’s no secret that being a doctor can be very difficult and emotionally draining. You’ll be working long hours that often include evening and weekend shifts. If you’re a doctor in an emergency room, you’ll constantly have to respond to emergencies.
People will count on you when they’re in their most vulnerable state. They need you to be able to provide honest advice in an empathetic way about treatment options.
Doctors must be genuinely concerned for their patients and be truly interested in their wellbeing. Having this empathy allows you to deal with your patients with compassion, even when you’re feeling stressed from the day’s events.
How to Become a Doctor
Becoming a doctor takes years of education, hard work, and dedication. You’ll need to look at undergraduate programs if you’ve just graduated from high school. If you’re older, enroll in a nearby college or university and begin taking courses.
Look for programs offering bachelor’s degrees and prerequisite courses for medical schools. Some universities offer bachelor’s degrees with a pre-med pathway, allowing you to take a course schedule designed to help you get into medical school. You can also earn a chemistry or biology degree, which includes most of the required courses.
However, you can choose any major you’re interested in, but you’ll still be responsible for completing the prerequisite courses required for medical school. So, this is something to keep in mind when selecting your major.
Medical School and MCAT
You’ll need to start applying for medical school in the summer after your junior year of college to give yourself enough time to apply to the top medical schools on your list. By your junior year of college, you’ll still have time to take any remaining prerequisite courses and apply for the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test). This is a standardized exam that tests you for skills like:
- Problem-solving skills
- Critical thinking skills
- Knowledge of behavioral science
- Understanding of social science concepts
Your total MCAT score can range between 472 and 528. Scores over 524 are considered a 100th percentile score, getting you into a top-ranked medical school. Scores lower than that will usually get you into other medical schools, but each school has its own requirement.
This is the time when you’ll need to secure funding for medical school. Student loans and grants are the most popular options. You should also look at medical schools that offer donor-funded grants and other types of financial assistance.
Medical school lasts four years, and you’ll spend approximately 3 to 7 years as a resident. Ultimately this means you’ll have to work a minimum of 10 to 14 years to become a doctor.
The length of your residency program depends on the specialty you choose to go into. In the US, family practice residencies are usually one of the shortest, lasting approximately three years.
You can also complete pediatrics and obstetrics/gynecology residencies in four years. However, if you’re interested in surgery, neurosurgery, or anesthesiology, you can spend anywhere from 4 to 7 years in residency.
You’ll learn more information about residencies in medical school. Remember that licensing boards in other countries will have different requirements for how many years of residency you need.
Becoming a Doctor
Now that you know more about the qualities a doctor should have, you’ll better be able to determine if it’s the right career path for you. Take an honest look at your personality qualities and consider taking a personality test to further assess your skills and attributes.
If you’re ready to take the next steps, look at undergraduate degree programs at local colleges and universities. If you have a degree and need to take medical school prerequisite classes, make a list of the courses you need. You can also consider online programs to save you money.