Doctor talking to an elderly man

A career in medicine: what makes a good doctor?

Are you thinking of a career in medicine? Not sure what it takes to be a good doctor? Well, we thought we’d explore just what it is that helps make a doctor a great medical practitioner – and a central part of their community.

We’ve all made a visit to a doctor. Whether we’re under the weather or want to become healthier, if we need to talk or need surgery – no matter the medical issue, one thing is for certain, we all depend on our doctors. As a patient, dealing with a good doctor can make the world of difference to whatever situation you face. They’re the ones who provide us with the care and support we need at the times we need it the most.

And here’s how they do it.

Great doctors have a personal touch

In today’s patient-centred healthcare system it’s essential for doctors to have what is referred to as a ‘good bedside manner’. But what does that entail? Well, by definition it’s the way a doctor interacts and communicates with patients. And you’ll need some really important characteristics – or soft skills – to do it well.

Think compassion, patience, calmness, empathy, respect and reassurance. Health issues, big or small, are always important to the patient and their family and friends. So a doctor’s kind, gentle manner will be appreciated.

And let’s not forget a sense of humour. Sometimes laughter really is the best medicine. It can ease people’s discomfort or stress. But please be measured – nobody wants their doctor to be a stand-up comedian!

Communication is central to a career in medicine

Hand-in-hand with a good bedside manner is the ability to communicate effectively with patients. And it’s not just about giving out information – though that’s super important. It’s also about listening to patients, their family and friends, and other healthcare professionals. Likewise, a good doctor makes people feel comfortable enough to speak up and ask questions. In short, heed the old saying to listen more than you speak.

When doctors are handing out information they need to display a confident approach – nobody wants a doctor who looks unsure about what’s going on. Just remember it’s a fine line, being arrogant and cocky is equally as unsettling for patients.

Great doctors are team players

When it comes to the vital topic of a person’s health – it should be all hands on deck. It’s a team game, and good doctors know that. They happily work with a range of other health professionals to get the best outcome for their patients.

Great doctors are professional

At our worst – unwell, perhaps scared and needing guidance – we all want a doctor who is professional, understanding and, above all, knowledgeable. Good doctors are always thorough in their approach. It’s a busy gig, medicine, but it’s important to give patients the time they deserve. Time to establish a detailed patient history, to examine patients properly and the time to think about what’s in front of you, but also to think outside the box.

To do all that a doctor does – and to do it well – you need to be super skilled with time management and, moreover, very effective at prioritising.

Doctors never stop learning throughout their career in medicine

A great country doctor has to know a lot of information about a lot of medical topics to treat a lot of different patients! And they’ll need to be prepared to continue learning. An enthusiasm to learn throughout your career is vital because it’ll help you stay up to date with the latest in the medical profession. More knowledge means you can provide your patients with better treatment and keep them better informed.

Another trait that’ll come in handy if you want a career in medicine is an inquiring mind. So be naturally curious and want to investigate. Be that person who perseveres, so patients know you’ll never stop trying to help them.  

Regional doctors become part of the community

Being a doctor in a regional area is something special. You become an integral part of the community. Your community. Great doctors immerse themselves in their communities. They get involved. It’s invaluable for building relationships, and good relationships can mean more constructive healthcare.  

Patients also prefer continuity of care. They like having a doctor who will stick around for a while, so they don’t have to keep telling their medical story to someone new each time they visit. Country communities value their doctors and want their doctors to enjoy the benefits of a country lifestyle.

A career in medicine is where you can make your mark

So do you want to be a great doctor? Be the one who cares and supports people? Who’s there for patients at the times they need it the most? Do you want to be at the cutting edge of where medicine is going in Australia? Do you want to study your medicine degree in the regions so you can make a difference for the regions? You can at Charles Sturt.