Qualities of a good doctor...
'What qualities makes up a good doctor?'

Is it just about brains and skills? Or is it about compassion and empathy?

Listed below is my list in no particular order.. feel free leave me a note, and add to this list..

1. Sense of responsibility - I think this quality is essential in a physician. A strong sense of responsibility to his/her patients and colleagues breeds dedication and motivates one to do what is right, even though that might mean going above and beyond the call of duty. A strong sense of responsibility is the character quality that keeps you going even when you are tired, and helps you to go the extra mile, for the sake of your patients. It makes you do the right thing even if it involves sacrifice, without ulterior motives, even when no one else is looking.

2. Compassion and empathy - Who wouldn't want a physician who is kind, compassionate, humane, considerate, tolerant, generous, empathetic and sensitive. A physician who is genuinely interested in your well-being, and is sensitive even to the unspoken needs of the patient. It is a quality that brings forth dedication to the patient, but rather than from a sense of duty, it comes forth from genuine sense of concern. It is the quality that makes a physician be kind and generous, even in the wee hours of the morning, when fatigue has set in, when every cell in the body cries out for rest. It is also the quality that helps ward off cynicism when dealing with a 'difficult' patient. Indeed, it is my sincere prayer, that my love of the science medicine will never surpass my love for the art (and humane aspect) of medicine.

3. Professionalism - The quality that ensures that the patient's rights, autonomy, modesty and privacy is respected at all times. Being a patient is difficult, and many patients feel that they are vulnerable, not just physically, but also emotionally and psychologically. Being professional is not a quality that is innate, and I think many do not realize that. Being professional at all times is difficult because we are only human, and human nature with its needs, weaknesses and desires do often run contrary to being professional.

4. Fund of knowledge - Needless to say that every physician needs to have an adequate knowledge base as a foundation from which to practice. After all it is only possible to diagnose a condition that you know about. However, medicine is a rapidly advancing field and is not possible to know everything in medicine, and this is where a referral/consult is appropriate.

5. Humility - Arrogance, pride and overconfidence are dangerous qualities for a physician. They trick us into thinking we know it all, and leads us down the path strewn with medical errors and misdiagnoses. Humility helps us recognize not just our strengths but also our weaknesses. It helps us realize that we are not God, despite dealing daily with life and death. It allows us to understand our limitations, to be humble enough to ask for help and make that appropriate referral/consult.

6. Clinical acumen and judgment - The ability to differentiate between 'sick' and 'less sick' is crucial. Patients almost never present as 'text-book' cases with a 'slam-dunk' diagnosis. The ability to sort through the patient history, picking up the pertinent details (and disregarding the red herrings), examining the patient and obtaining the appropriate tests to come up with a diagnosis. Also knowing when to intervene, when to treat, when to admit, or when to just observe and do nothing is a skill learnt with time and experience. It is like an art form when done well.

7. Communication skills and bedside manners - Communication plays an important role in medicine, whether it be interacting with patients, colleagues or the lay public. The ability to give bad news, counsel, comfort, discuss treatment options and alternatives, is as important as making the diagnosis. Patients don't just want treatment of their physical disease, but often have emotional and psychological needs and issues that go along with a disease, especially chronic diseases. Without good communication with their physicians, a patient is more likely to go 'doctor-shopping' and be non-compliant with their medications.

In summary, being a good doctor is more than just board scores and strong academics. It also involves a right attitude, aptitude, character, commitment, demeanor and a above all, a heart of service.

Antatosh 2005