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Top 10 Qualities Highly Effective Doctors

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After such a great response to our last ranking of rankings, The Final Word on America’s Top 10 Nursing Schools, we looked at what qualities patients want in a doctor. With more and more hospitals under pressure to improve their doctors’ bedside manners, we look at what matters to both the patients they treat and the nurses they work alongside.

We aggregated together rankings and comments from lists across the board: from forum and social media postings to systematic studies, such as the most widely credited one of its kind released by the Mayo Clinic. We also asked for your input over on social media, which we’ve shared below. According to our research, the following 10 qualities make a good doctor:

1. Confident

Perhaps, more than any other quality, patients seemed to want to have a sense that their doctor knows what they’re doing…and knows it. Whether dispensing treatment or dispensing advice, patients want a doctor who has, and who inspires, confidence. Over and over again, patients highlighted – above all else – their desire to have a doctor whose manner and actions reassure them that someone qualified is in the driver’s seat: Not at all an unreasonable request when dealing with your health!

2. Empathetic

“The ‘ideal’ doctor is someone who validates my pain, listens to my problem and treats me with professional courtesy,” says one patient. Above and beyond almost all other attributes, patients who were asked said they value a doctor who tries to understand what they am feeling and experiencing, physically and emotionally, and communicates that understanding to them.

3. Skilled

More than just being book-smart, patients want a doctor who is talented at what they do: A doctor who uses evidence, method, and intuition, as well as other subjective and objective items in their toolkit to provide the fastest, most effective treatment possible.

4. Focused

Even more important than knowledge for patients is whether their doctor is “in the room” with them and not distracted with the flurry of other demands on their time. A past study suggested that doctors no longer have the luxury of building a relationship with their patients; in other words, an attitude of “get in, diagnose, on to the next person” now prevails. A dream situation for any patient would be to snag a doctor who has somehow found how to move beyond this mindset.

5. Knowledgeable

Higher-up on the list of priorities, patients – quite sensibly – want a doctor that has the broadest-possible general knowledge of medicine. They also want a doctor who is committed to continuing education, keeping abreast of the latest techniques and advances to the benefit of their patients.

6. Unbiased

Time and again, patients want to know that their doctor is not owned by big pharma. They also want to know simply that doctors are able to give unbiased advice, free from natural prejudice, non-factual opinions, and corporate influence.

7. Lives and promotes a healthy lifestyle

We were amazed this didn’t get mentioned even more, but nevertheless, many commented that their doctors should set an example as healthy citizens. This includes things such as being a non-smoker, eating right, exercising and maintaining a healthy physique, as well as taking the time to proactively emphasize the benefits of staying healthy, especially at routine check-ups rather than dispensing medical advice only after one or more things have started to go wrong.

8. Respectful

“The doctor takes my input seriously and works with me,” is the way one of the hundreds of respondents to the Mayo survey best summed this up. Other oft-mentioned attributes that we felt fall into this category are a willingness to value patients’ wishes in the decision-making process and going to bat for patients with any other medical professionals they may refer them to.

9. Honest and forthright

“Tell it to me straight, doc. I can take it.” Even patients who were a little squeamish about bad news wanted their doctor to bite the bullet and just tell them the news in plain language. They want their doctor to just rip the band aid off; whether or not they themselves are willing to. Such patients also would be more forgiving of a doctor who made a mistake but at least admitted it straight away.

10. Humane

Among the ten most common items on patient checklists boiled down to whether their potential doctor had the ability to be caring and compassionate. In other words, patients want a doctor who is interested in their patients as human beings, not just information on a chart. Respondents also cited the importance of a doctor who actually remembers them.

We asked you the question on social media: “Whether it’s as a patient or colleague, what is the most important trait you look for in a ‪doctor?” Many of you echoed the traits found in the Mayo Clinic survey; qualities such as humility, empathy, and knowledge were particularly important for you. We spotted some new ones to consider:

  • “Cares about a cure not just pills.”
  • “They look for the cause of the problem instead of putting bandaids on it.”
  • “Tell you what is going on in regular language and not ‘doctor talk'”
  • “…won’t treat you differently depending on the kind of insurance you have.”

Have these qualities and looking for a new assignment? Check out Soliant’s physician jobs through the button below!

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Contributor Ron Washburn

Ron is currently the executive vice president of Soliant and has been with the company for more than 28 years now. He oversees our nursing and allied health division and has been with Soliant since its small beginnings in the early 90s. He’s an integral part of our organization, and not only hosts trainings for our groups but manages company events and continues to run a desk of clients and candidates. He is experienced in contract placement, recruiting, permanent placement and internet recruiting within the healthcare industry. Ron possesses a Master's degree focused on Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship from Georgia State University. Don’t forget to check out the rest of his blogs!