A good doctor clearly needs to have a vast amount of medical knowledge and skill. These traits alone do not, however, a good doctor make. Doctors must possess a few other traits in order to truly become great healers.
Humility and confidence may seem mutually exclusive, but the best doctors understand that they’re not. Physicians need to have confidence in their skills and communicate that confidence to patients. It’s equally important, however, for a doctor to know when he doesn’t. Different doctors have different areas of expertise and experience. A good doctor knows when to ask for assistance and ask questions. Humility ensures that confidence doesn’t become cockiness.
Every single patient needs their doctor’s full attention when interacting with him. Physicians and surgeons need the ability to concentrate on the task at hand, no matter what else is happening. Those in the medical community don’t have the luxury of slacking off a bit after a night of insomnia, or letting their minds wander to a family problem during surgery. In the medical field, distraction can literally mean death.
A doctor must respect life itself as well as every patient they see. Religious backgrounds, political philosophies, lifestyle choices and skin color must all fade away. Doctors can educate patients and guide their healthcare choices, but they can’t make decisions for their patients. A good doctor must treat all patients fairly and respectfully. Sometimes this means respecting a patient’s wishes, even when they make a choice the physician disagrees with.
Practicing medicine is often difficult. Doctors work long hours. They may find themselves called to the hospital late at night or staying late at the office to research odd symptoms in a particular patient. Doctors also sometimes spend hours dreaming up creative ways to work around restrictions to get patients the help they need. A good doctor advocates for his patients and goes out of his way to help, and fighting the good fight takes more heart than even a physician’s salary can buy.
Technical medical knowledge matters, and no doctor can do his job well without it. But truly connect with patients and making a difference in their lives requires much more. Doctors need money to keep their practice doors open, of course, but the success of a truly great medical practice is measured by impact, not currency.