Seven Qualities of Highly Effective Doctors

Happy New Year!

Ending one year and starting another is an opportune time for reflection and evaluation:

  • What did I accomplish this past year?
  • What was great about my relationships, and what would I like to change about them?
  • How can I make my life even better in the coming year?
  • How can I derive even more satisfaction from my job?

To that end, it seems like a good time to revisit one of the topics I talk to teams about: Which qualities make a good doctor? Is it about brain and skill? Or is it about compassion and empathy? Here are the seven qualities of a highly effective doctor (and most of these apply to anyone who works in a veterinary practice, so read on!):

1) Sense of responsibility

Responsibility breeds dedication and motivates you to do what is right. You demonstrate that by “going beyond the call of duty.” This sense of responsibility keeps you moving and pushes you to go the extra mile for the sake of the patients. You do the right things–you sacrifice without ulterior motives, even when no one is looking.

2) Compassion and empathy

You are kind, compassionate, humane, considerate, tolerant, generous, empathetic, and sensitive. Your dedication to the patient comes from a genuine sense of concern. These are qualities that keep you going when you are tired or fatigued. These qualities ward off cynicism when you are dealing with a difficult patient. Compassion and empathy comprise the “art” in the art and science of medicine.

3) Professionalism

This quality helps you preserve clients’, patients’, and employees’ rights. You respect autonomy, modesty, and privacy at all times.

4) Fount of knowledge

You have adequate knowledge and stay abreast of developments in medicine. You are honest enough to know your limitations and when to refer a patient for consultation.

5) Humility

Arrogance, pride, and overconfidence are dangerous qualities for a doctor, and they open you up to medical errors and misdiagnoses. Humility helps to recognize not just your strengths but also your weaknesses. Humility means that you understand your limitations and are humble enough to ask for help.

6) Clinical acumen and judgment

Your ability to differentiate between “sick” and “less sick” is crucial in providing patient care. Clinical acumen and judgment means you have the ability to sort out patients’ history, pick up patients’ details, and obtain appropriate test results to come to a diagnosis. You know when to intervene. It is an art you have developed with years of experience.

7) Communication skills and beside manner

Communication plays an important role in the relationships between doctor and patients, colleagues, and the public. You have the ability to give bad news, counsel, and comfort. You know that discussing treatment options and alternatives is important. You understand that good communication prevents “doctor-shopping” or non-compliance with medications.

In summary, being a good doctor involves more than academic excellence. It involves the right attitude, aptitude, character, commitment, and demeanor, and above all, a heart of service.

Wishing you only the best as you create a happy, productive 2014 for yourself!
For more information about this and other training Shawn can provide to your team onsite, call Erin Hart at 888-759-7191 or email her.


Adapted from “Qualities of a Good Doctor” by Dato’ Ahmad Tajudin Jaafar, Dean, Allianze College of Medical Sciences.

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