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The 7 Essential Qualities of a Physician

When American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine’s Admissions Committee examines a candidate, the first thing they assess is his or her capability to become a successful physician. Although these qualities aren’t quantifiable, they are evaluated by the candidate’s potential to demonstrate traits that are shared by some of the best physicians working today. Here are some of them:

Compassion

Physicians aren’t robots. They’re not just there to insensitively deliver prognoses or mechanically perform complex surgeries. They need heart. Patients respond better to a physician who is empathetic to their needs, so focus on exercising courtesy and compassion with your patients. At AUA, we instill compassion in our students with early hands-on training, which gives them experience interacting with patients. By developing these skills early, our students are better prepared to meet the demands of practicing medicine and master the essentials of patient care.

Related: Why Are Some Patients So Impatient?

Strong Work Ethic          

Having a strong work ethic means you dedicate 100% of yourself to your work every day, regardless of how tired you are or what is going on in your personal life. While this quality will help you succeed in any field, it is especially essential to the practice of medicine. Every day brings a new challenge. Even if you don’t know what those challenges will be, you’ll have to be ready to face them. Preparation is time consuming, but you must put in the effort if you want to succeed.

Don’t take it from us, though. AUA grad Michael Talarico applied to more than 100 residency programs, interviewed with 19 of them, and ended up in a radiology residency at Dartmouth. Find out how he did it.

Related: A Student Perspective on a Doctor’s Work Ethic

Professionalism

Simply slipping on a white coat won’t command respect from your patients; it must be earned. As with all encounters, first impressions are paramount.   If you are inattentive, impatient, or unkempt, your patient will feel unsatisfied and neglected and will most likely seek the care of another physician. Unlike other Caribbean medical schools, AUA has an Education Enhancement Department (ED) that fosters your professional skills and decorum.

Related: Student Support and AUA’s Education Enhancement Department

Knowledge

Physicians need to have encyclopedic medical knowledge that can be recalled at a moment’s notice. They also have to stay on top of the latest medical news and trends, which could contradict something that was learned way back in medical school.  In other words, as advancements are made in the field, you’ll have to learn new information that enhances or counters what you’ve already committed to memory.  Though we can offer you some great tips right now on how to retain more and read faster, the EED is available for AUA students to help them develop methods to retain that knowledge and apply relevant information quickly.

Related: 3 Ways to Read Faster and Retain More

Confidence

Because a successful physician is highly knowledgeable, he or she must reinforce that with confidence. Patients want to trust their physicians as caregivers, but the lack of self-assurance communicates uncertainty.  A physician with strong, healthy confidence will be listened to and respected by patients and colleagues alike. Even if you feel unsure about something, don’t let your patient see it. Instead, consult other resources, specialists, case studies, etc. in order to provide your patient with the most informed treatment.

Related: 6 Ways to Look Good for Your Med School Interview

Humility

Humility and confidence work as a complementary pair. With your patients and colleagues, you must be approachable and available. This means that despite time limitations and over-scheduling, your patient never feels rushed. Hear everything he or she has to say without preemptively voicing your diagnosis. You must also be willing to admit when you’re unsure about something and especially willing to ask questions.  A physician is a lifelong learner and these situations should strengthen your resolve.

Related: A Student’s Perspective on How a Little Personality Goes a Long Way

Passion

Promising medical school applicants don’t want to become physicians because of the salary. They apply because they have a passion for the study and practice of medicine. Their passion makes them disciplined and willing to sacrifice other opportunities to better their career. If you are dedicated to improving the lives of others and can spend long nights hovering over patient charts, then you’ve applied to the right profession.

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