Understanding Physician Personalities

by Michelle Penoyar

When it comes to interpersonal relationships, it is important to remember that all individuals have unique personalities. This is especially true when interacting with physicians. Patients can become offended when they feel like their physician is not listening. Dealing with an individual’s health is a particularly sensitive issue and patients must consider that physician personality traits do not equate to the quality of medical care they provide.

If you are speaking with your provider and it seems he or she is distant, it can often be traced to overworking and physician burnout. According to the American College of Surgeons, many surgeons are suffering from burnout that is caused by perfectionism in their personalities. This perfectionism is what drives them to excel in their work and can cause them to be extremely depressed when something goes wrong. When they keep driving to be perfect, they often work too much and then burnout. If a surgeon seems to be distracted during a consultation, it may be traced back to his or her perfectionism.

An article by the American Academy of Family Physicians looks further into how physician personalities effect patient encounters. Oftentimes family physicians know the right treatment for the given condition, but their lack of good communication skills causes patients to feel hesitant.  Patients get upset because they feel they have unmet needs and unfulfilled expectations. Physicians may not be able to see that their lack of communication is affecting the patient. It is important for the patient to tell the physician how they feel so that they may resolve any concerns about the physician’s medical judgment.

Physicians often exhibit common personality traits because they share many of the same experiences. They have all successfully completed years of medical training to have the opportunity to practice medicine. Physicians are driven and passionate individuals who sometimes miss the mark when it comes to communication. Patients should continue to take this into consideration when interacting with their providers.

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