What are Personal Attributes and why are they important?
Personal Attributes are the qualities medical and dentals schools seek in their competitive candidates and future students. Qualities like having perseverance, being a mature and responsible person, being compassionate, being ethical, having substantial problem solving skills … and this list goes on and on. It’s not reasonably possible to be everything and have every desirable personal attribute out there, but the more you build yourself into a well-rounded candidate (nice GPAs, nice MCATs or DATs, substantial letters of rec, meaningful and self-defining experiences, etc) with several highly developed and reliable qualities, the more desirable you will become in their eyes. And that’s the way to take your application from Applying to Getting-an-Interview, and then, hopefully getting into their program!!! Which, I’m assuming, if you are reading this, is a big time goal of yours!
So, I wanted to help you get a feel for some of the Personal Attributes that are desirable to medical and dental schools, but also specifically requested by patients (people) I surveyed. The idea is to perhaps help you prioritize some of the personal attributes you would like to develop in yourself so that you can be desirable to both your future school(s) of choice and to your future patients!!!
With that, let’s hear what some real people (who are real patients) want from their doctors and dentists!!! You can be informed from the point of view of patients, and then decide what might be important to you.
I asked each person: What do you look for in a doctor and a dentist? Traits, training, etc.?
I look for a doctor who is knowledgeable and experienced and has some amount of bedside manner. If the office staff is friendly and organized it makes a huge difference. You can tell when an office works as a team.
I would say the same for my dentist.
I want HONESTY from my doctor! I want the truth; I want to know s/he continues research, learning, reading & writing for JAMA; a doctor who takes time and looks at me when we talk; a doctor who sees me as a human with a problem who is paying her/him for HELP.
I want the same thing from my dentist. Plus, one who is willing to send me to a specialist when s/he can’t do the job or when I can’t handle the pain and need to get more than Novocain. My old dentist was the best, plus he was also a “teacher” at the dental school.
I want my doctor to be board certified. To have empathy, to be a good communicator, and to be someone who looks beyond what I am saying to ask the right questions. They need to be honest about what I need to be/get healthy. I want someone who looks at the whole me, not someone who just hear what I say as wrong (MK interjecting here … do you hear those words? Can you feel the patient’s negative experience? … What can you do/learn to help ensure you do not become a care provider who makes their patient feel this way?). My doctor has to care and take time to get to know the whole me. I need to feel listened to and not rushed or brushed off (Again, here that negative experience coming through. It’s unfortunate and, honestly, entirely undesirable). I’d rather the doctor look something up or consult reference materials or other doctors, rather than be arrogant enough to think they know it all (And again. This patient has had some uncool experiences.).
I want my dentist to be board certified. They need to have a gentle, caring touch, be kind, and be understanding and empathetic to my past negative dental experiences and able to reassure me. Someone who does not lecture me, or push treatments on me. My dentist needs to explain my options to me and council me, then allow me to decide. Explain and council me and I will decide. They need to be able to stress good habits without scolding or embarrassing me, and communicate at my level about the conditions and recommendations for my oral health. (And even here with her dentist experiences. Worth noting what she is hoping to find: empathy, understanding of past experiences, with a willingness to reassure her, and someone who does not lecture or embarrass her. … Matching care provider to patient can be a challenging undertaking, especially with insurance coverage and cost of care. You won’t be able to be the perfect fit for every patient who walks through your door. It’s just not how life goes. But certainly developing the skills mentioned here seems a worthy investment of your time and helpful to your future patients.)
I’ve had a lot of weird health things that are ongoing so when I see a new doctor about a new issue it’s very difficult to go through them all and then have to explain to them what some of the unique issues are. The doctors I’ve really connected with have looked at my chart and looked up the things they aren’t familiar with prior to coming in so we can get down to figuring out what’s wrong, if it’s a new issue or if one of my other things is showing up in a different way. I also look for a doctor to not look at me like I’m an awful person when I make jokes about my health or issues in general. Patients deal with difficult stuff in different ways and it helps me to make a joke of it. It helps no one to make me feel guilty over my coping mechanism. When looking for my general doctor I look for someone who will show an interest in all parts of my life and will ask questions, some of the answers to my medical things have come about because I didn’t think to provide them that information. I look for a doctor that I feel comfortable talking to. Who remembers who I am and doesn’t just dismiss my worries.
I don’t have much practice picking a dentist but look for friendly professional manner. Clean practical workplace. Looks at my chart before coming to see me. And most importantly listens to me when I say it hurts. I have a high pain tolerance and after years of braces, I will put up with a lot of uncomfortable because I know the mouth is a small area to work on. But if I say ouch then I need them to acknowledge that something might be wrong and not work through it. I look for a dentist who can do a good job and is personable.
Unfortunately, I’ve had to look for doctors a lot lately. I even fired a doctor in January. It’s important to find one that you can talk to, one that explains what they’re doing and why, and one you can trust to give suggestions but ultimately listens to your wishes.
Dentists are a whole different area. I’m petrified at the dentist office and spend the entire time talking myself out of having a panic attack. I’ve had my Fitbit clock my heartrate at 180 at the dentist and the same Fitbit count my time in the tattoo chair as a nap.
a female doctor who speaks intelligently to me as my partner in my health.
I want a female dentist who is not stingy with pain relief, does not push services or procedures, and speaks to me as a partner.
For a doctor or a dentist I try to find someone that is easy to talk to, someone who actually cares about my health and is willing to give me enough time to discuss my concerns. Also, it is very important to find someone with a similar philosophy as myself. For example, wanting to find the source of my issue instead of covering up the symptoms with drugs. Or finding a more naturopathic way to help me with my issues. (This is interesting and a challenge. A complaint against traditional Western medicine is that the training focuses on matching drug to the symptoms rather than focusing on finding a cure or the underlying cause. If this is a concern to you, or if you are interested in expanding upon the training provided in medical school, look into the follow keyword terms for more information and opportunities: functional medicine, integrative medicine, and naturopathic medicine (of which there are actual medical school training programs for).)
I look for a doctor with availability, empathy, and a clear understanding of my wellbeing/how to fix those health issues that may arise.
I look for a dentist who doesn’t try to talk to me while tools are in mouth, is careful of how hard, they’re poking around, and has the ability to fix the problems completely and fully.
Yours truly, me: Mary Kate
I look for doctors, dentists, massage therapists, chiropractors, and other caregivers who are:
- highly skilled and adept in their fields and board certified
- active listeners who hear me to understand my concerns, desires, and intentions
- willing to work with me to help me achieve my healthcare goals
- respectful of me and do not dismiss me or my concerns, desires, and intentions
- active in taking the time required to address my health and needs
- able to accept their own limitations and willing to refer me when my care needs exceed their care expertise
- honest and have integrity
- excellent problem solvers
- dedicated to safe practice
- effectively and helpfully help cope with anxiety during care
- And if there should be a tie between 2 care providers who are all of these things above, the one who is personable, friendly, happy, smiling, and caring the most will win my heart and me as a patient.
I think it important to note that oftentimes, patient feedback about what they are looking for in their healthcare providers generally comes from the experiences they’ve had … what they’ve liked during visits, and what hasn’t worked for them.
I feel you can hear the patient experiences in the comments above, in both what has worked for patients and what hasn’t worked. Hear these insights and ask yourself how you can build these attributes into your skill set. What kind of experiences can you seek out to help you develop these qualities? Who can you help? And how can you help them?
Also, hearing these words, think about their meaning and allow them to inform you and your questions next time you shadow doctors or dentists. Observe how these careproviders treat patients. Observe how the patients respond to the care they are receiving. Study the waiting room. The service desk. The care providing team as a whole. The environment in which the care is being provided and the feel that is present for the patients to experience. How does it feel to you? What do you see? What do you hear? Are you calm? Do you feel safe and comfortable? What resonates with you? What would you change? When you shadow, observe like crazy … every detail. The feel, the care, the process, the behavior of all the people involved. What is it of what you see that is drawing you into this profession? What calls to you? What is it that doesn’t work for you that you would seek to change (if anything) to make the care you provide filled with your values and your personality?
There are so many questions to be asked, so many observations to be made … when shadowing. In a broad overview, you should be studying the profession itself, the ups and downs, the ins and out. You should be asking the person you are shadowing questions about the care they are providing (how they do it, how they approach patients, what values and choices guide and inform the care they provide, etc), and you should be asking them about their choice to become a healthcare provider (Why did they choose their profession? Would they choose it again? Why or Why not? What kind of life do they have being in this profession? Etc.) Think about all the experiences this person has had and what kind of things they have learned. How can that inform you? Also … and this one gets missed all of the time … but without having insight into what kind of person you are shadowing (their likes and dislikes, strengths and un-strengths) … how in the world can you apply what they are saying to you in a manner that is fully helpful and meaningful. If the person you are shadowing doesn’t value the same things as you, then why would all the details of their experience and their feelings about them apply to you?
Just some thoughtful insight. I could go on and on about this. There is a process (an art, if you will) to getting the most out of your shadowing experiences … a talk for another post. But for now, back to our main topic … What are patients looking for in their doctors and dentists? How can you be what your future patients need from you? Get experiences that allow you to care for others. Try it out. See how you do. Learn what you like about it. What you find challenging. And then ask yourself … is taking on the responsibility of caring for other people’s health and being what they need from you what you really want to do?
I hope this insight has been helpful!
My best wishes to you for your happiness and success!
Mary Kate :0)