Being a patient is never something that anyone (not even doctors) likes to experience. The word patient is derived from the Latin word, suffer, and many of us would agree that this is an accurate descriptor. As a patient, we are precariously vulnerable—forced to turn over absolute confidence in what could be considered a complete stranger. Oftentimes, we walk into a doctor’s office with seemingly outrageous expectations: “Cure me, now,” we beg of our physicians. What we are really seeking, though, is simply for a doctor that makes us feel safe, heard, and confident.
While we may never find the perfect doctor able to make us feel both comfortable and healed at all times, we can certainly adjust our expectations and decide what makes a “near-perfect doc.” The right patient-doctor relationship can mean faster diagnosis, a greater probability that you will see your doctor more regularly and decrease the likelihood that you will have to go through the laborious task of switching doctors during a time when you need a doctor most.
Choosing a doctor is an incredibly personal decision. Your time, health, and money are on the line. Your definition of “good” will differ from the next person’s, so know what it is you are looking for. For you, what makes a doctor good?
Here are a few non-negotiable traits that every doctor should embody and a few factors to consider when determining your personal preferences:
Compassion isn’t a virtue that comes packaged with medical training. It’s an inborn trait that can be nurtured by emulating caring mentors in medical schools, not necessarily taught. Some people are innately more compassionate and caring than others. If you are lucky enough to find a caring and compassionate doctor, you are in good hands for they are sure to go to great lengths to get you through your ailment. Studies have found that these values are strongly linked to higher quality of care and far better patient outcomes.
Competency means embodying the knowledge and skills necessary to perform the job effectively. Competency comes only from training and experience. For doctors, experience begins with training and starts the moment they enter medical school. Competent doctors are able to interpret the situation in the context that is relevant, especially during emergencies. Staying up-to-date on the latest research and technology is essential to becoming a great doctor. Do a quick search online to check out any recent articles your doctor has published or any talks they’ve recently given. You can also find out how many years they’ve practiced medicine, any awards they’ve received and even reviews from former patients.
3. Bedside Manners
Numerous studies have shown a link between lousy bedside manners and poor medical outcomes. Every patient wants to find a doctor who listens. A doctor can be among the best in their field, but if they have poor bedside manners, patients are forced to choose between competency and kindness. Doctors can often appear rushed, but you should feel important during your visits. Be sure you feel comfortable and confident that your doctor cares—caring is just as important as competency. Don’t sacrifice kindness in a doctor or you risk the subconsciously wanting to avoid the doctor, even when you know you really need to go.
Ask yourself: “Do I really feel comfortable and open with a doctor of the opposite sex?” Be truthful with yourself. If the answer is no, then don’t push the boundaries. You can test the waters here, but ultimately, go with your gut and make an honest decision. It is okay to bias here.
Age may matter to some, and not at all to others. Do you feel less vulnerable with someone your own age? Perhaps you’d like someone a bit younger so you can feel a sense of control. Or, maybe you’d like someone older who you deem wiser. Whatever your call, consider your options and in which scenario you’d feel the most comfortable.
6. Action Plan
Clarity of thought process and action planning is important in assessing a clinical condition. If your doctor orders a test, they must also know how to deal with the results. Having an action plan means that your doctor has control over the situation, whether treating a medical condition or consulting a sub-specialist when they’re is not sure of the treatment options. When it comes to the bad news, do you feel confident in your doctor’s ability to develop a successful treatment plan? You need to be onboard with your doctor’s strategies and thus have unwavering confidence in their ability to lead you back to health.
Being a good doctor means embodying all the above characteristics. The next time you make a doctor’s visit, evaluate your doctor against these criteria and determine what you are looking for and whether or not your doctor fits the bill.