Membership & Fellowship: 8 Vital Traits of the Ideal Physician

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Going to the doctor’s office is one of the most nerve-racking experiences for an individual. As such, patients have the option of seeking care from another clinician if they feel their current physician is not meeting their needs. While each physician may be unique, there are common traits that patients look for in their physician. 

Here are eight of the most im
portant traits: 

1. Communication:  The job of a physician requires great communication skills, especially when it comes to speaking and listening. The way in which a physician communicates information to a patient is just as important as the information being communicated. Patients who understand their doctors are more likely to admit their health problems, comprehend their treatment options, adjust their unhealthy patterns, and obediently follow their medication schedules. 

2. Empathetic: It’s important to understand and relate to a patient’s feelings. According to a study published in 2011 in 
Academic Medicine
, patients of physicians that were more empathic were more likely to have good control over their blood sugar, while the converse was true for patients whose physicians showed little to no empathy. This research suggests that when doctors respond empathetically at appropriate times, their patients tend to be happier and more motivated to stay on treatment. 

3. Passionate: No patient wants to walk into a doctor’s office and see a physician that no longer cares about their practice. A patient wants to see a doctor’s sincere desire to practice medicine and a genuine passion in helping others. Passion is a trait that change your patient’s opinion of you. You’ll go from being an ordinary doctor to being a patient’s “favorite doctor.” 

4. Forthright: Patients want a physician who is forthright with all of their health information in layman’s terms. When a patient feels that their doctor is straightforward with all the facts, it allows them to make educated decisions about their health care that could impact their life and well-being. 

5. Professional: Professionalism is not clearly defined in the dictionary, but in the medical field it is generally accepted as acting with appropriate demeanor, respect, and possessing proficiency to perform the job. A doctor that is professional is compelled to always put the patient’s well-being above their own self-interests. A patient will have greater trust and confidence in a doctor’s abilities when their visits are conducted with good manners and respect. 

6. Respectful: Patients desire a physician who treats them like an individual and not just another medical problem or lab experiment in their office. Patients want their medical conditions to be explained in simple language so that they’re not made to feel inferior or bogged down with medical jargon. 

7. Knowledgeable: Many doctors believe that their credentials are of highest importance to their patients. In actuality, a doctor’s credentials are more important among their colleagues than their patients. What a patient values above credentials is knowledge. If a patient is going to see a surgeon for the first time, the last thing a patient is worried about is what Ivy League medical school the doctor attended. Instead, patients are more concerned about how many successful surgeries the physician has accomplished and wants to confirm that the surgeon can safely meet their needs. Patients also want a physician that is not afraid to admit when they do not know something and will either research it or refer the patient to a more qualified doctor. 

8. Thorough: One mistake in the medical field could have devastating effects. Patients want to know that their doctor has not overlooked an aspect of their health care. Thoroughness and attention to detail will instill confidence in a patient that the physician’s diagnosis is accurate. This trait also helps the physician to schedule the appropriate follow-ups or necessary extended care. Being thorough the first time can prevent the patient from future ailments or the discomfort of having to come back for additional visits. 

A physician exhibiting the above qualities is sure to build a long and successful doctor-patient relationship. In the end, the patient will be much healthier and happier, while the physician is rewarded with knowing they are taking care of their patient’s needs. 


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
409 12th Street SW, Washington, DC  20024-2188
Mailing Address: PO Box 96920, Washington, DC 20024-9998