If you’re thinking about a career in medicine, you want to be sure before you embark on the arduous training that will be required. To help you make up your mind, it makes sense to focus on the qualities and strengths that your daily work as a physician will bring to the fore.

If you’re unsure whether you have what it takes to be a physician, these essential character traits of successful physicians will help you decide if the role is for you.

Cultural Sensitivity

Doctors are in the privileged position of assisting people through painful points in their lives. When it comes to seeing your patients and their families through extreme times, cultural and spiritual values will play a pivotal role in how treatment, illness, and death are experienced. Every point on the journey back to wellness is colored by the patient’s cultural norms. Various patients may have different perspectives on what it means to accept treatment, or how closely they adhere to recovery procedures, and even the meaning of death.

A good physician is able to understand, respect and work with a patient’s requirements and preferences when a different cultural or spiritual background means they deviate from the ‘norm’. The role of a doctor will not suit someone who wants their own world-view to be considered objective reality. If you are not threatened by the idea of adjusting how you deliver your care, and you can respect other customs and practices, you will find immense satisfaction in the opportunity to treat patients from a wide range of cultures.

Clear Communication Under Pressure

Successful physicians are natural communicators. As an authoritative figure in the chain of care that includes other specialists, nurses, patients, and family members, a physician must be able to communicate clearly and effectively with everyone involved in order to coordinate the complex schedule of treatment. When communicating with colleagues in the hospital setting—especially under pressure—it’s crucial that you can prioritize key information and communicate it in a logical, clear and concise way so that all parties can understand and act appropriately.

If you’re unsure whether you’d be up for the challenge of communicating clearly under pressure, it may be worth getting some experience in a job that requires effective communication in a high-pressure setting. If you’re wondering whether you should get a job in college, here’s a strong argument for it. At the end of your studies you’ll be ready to search and apply for hospitalist jobs, but in the meantime, consider getting a summer job in any role that demands a high level of communication under pressure. Whether that’s working in a fast-food restaurant or a busy call center, you may discover a hidden skill, or an area you need to work on in order to be an effective doctor.

While these may not be the most obvious skills that you would associate with being a physician, it would be unwise to throw yourself into this career without understanding how communication and cultural sensitivity affect your day-to-day work. If you possess these skills in abundance (or you’re willing to put in the work to develop them) you’re more likely to find a medical career satisfying than if your strengths lie elsewhere.

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