Qualities of a Good Professional in the Medical Field

"Doc, I have a horrible headache," says the patient.

"Take two aspirin, and call me in the morning."

This is an old joke, but it illustrates a quality people don't want to see in health care providers: a distant and blasé dismissal of a patient's chief complaint. The doctor's response says, "Handle the problem yourself. I can't be bothered at the moment." Unfortunately, with the numerous changes that have occurred in health care over the last forty years, more health care providers seem to have less one-on-one time with their patients, and patients often feel a disconnection to their health care providers. A good health care professional must relate to their patients - and quickly. Hospitals now employ doctors known as "hospitalists" - doctors who just take care of you while you're in the hospital. What happened to the old-fashioned family doctor who took care of all of your needs and concerns - whether you were actually in the hospital or not? Most patients want health care providers who possess a combination of superior technical skills and warm bedside manner, and this doesn't just apply to doctors and nurses; it pertains to everyone working in medical field careers - from the receptionist who greets you in your private physician's office to the cardiothoracic surgeon who performs life saving open-heart surgery. Those seeking a career in the medical field must be sensitive and caring above all else. If one doesn't have empathy and concern for his or her fellow human beings, then working in medicine is not a good career choice. Human emotions and sensitivities span a broad spectrum, and those in the medical field must be open-minded and nonjudgmental when caring for the human race. Patients look to health care professionals to be patient, understanding, and trustworthy; medical providers need to be down-to-earth and approachable if they are going to have people open up and share their private health concerns. Confidentiality between health care professionals and their patients is of utmost importance. Medical professionals must also have the ability to communicate problems and solutions to patients. Being a good listener is a skill often overlooked by health professionals and those educating health care professionals, for that matter.

Qualities of a Good Professional in the Medical Field

Good listening skills are imperative in medical field careers. Sometimes it's not what people say, but how they say it that conveys their true concerns. Patient education is another important part of health care, and doctors and nurses (and anyone in medicine) must be able to teach patients about diseases and methods of treatment. They must be able to speak to patients on a level understandable to them, so all of their questions and concerns are addressed appropriately. If a doctor or nurse is uncomfortable speaking to a patient about cancer, for example, their discomfort translates to the patient, who then feels uncomfortable and thus may be unable to pose questions to ease their suffering or concern. Medical professionals must be cognizant of not speaking in "medicalese" or terminology only understood by those in medicine because this, too, can make patients feel inferior or uncomfortable. A competent health care professional will "translate" the medical terminology into phrasing a patient can better understand.

Having an eye for detail is a desirable trait in a medical professional. Medicine is highly technical, and those working in the profession must pay strict attention to what's going on around them and what might seem like the smallest, most impertinent details. For example, when a doctor writes an order for a medication to be administered in a certain way (i.e., by IV), it would be unprofessional for a nurse to disregard the doctor's order and give the medicine any way he or she felt necessary. Doctors and nurses - anyone working in a hospital or health care center - have to pay close attention to how orders are written so medications and treatments are administered properly. Sometimes orders and abbreviations can look quite similar - milligrams versus micrograms (mg. vs. mcg), for example. A mistake in interpreting these abbreviations could cause great harm to a patient if misread by a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist. A radiologist (a doctor who interprets X-rays) must have a strong appreciation for details. Radiologists read many X-rays every day. They have to be awake and alert to locate the tiniest tumors and fractures on black-and-white films. If they fall short or don't pay close enough attention to these details, patients can suffer.

The ability to work well in a team environment is another highly regarded quality a health care professional must possess. Being able to communicate with a large group of people - a group that includes both health care professionals as well as lay people and patients' family members - is very important. One has to be respectful and tactful and a good listener. When providing care to people, ideas have to be shared and care plans have to be developed and implemented. Having an open mind and being able to work in conjunction with others ultimately benefits the patient, the most important person on the team.

Last Updated: 08/20/2013

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