What Skills Are Needed to Be A Doctor?

What Skills Are Needed to Be A Doctor?

Are you considering pursuing a career in medicine? If so, one of the things you should ask yourself is whether you have the skills needed to be a doctor.

If you want to become a doctor, one of the first questions you should ask yourself is whether you have the skills that are needed to provide the best quality of care to patients. While it is vital to have the right qualifications, there are some things that even the best medical school can’t teach you about being a doctor. To succeed as a doctor, you will need to have the right combination of personality, skills and knowledge.

Identifying Your Skills

“Skill is the unified force of experience, intellect and passion in their opportunity.” – John Ruskin, Writer

Taking time to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to identify ways to become a more competent doctor. Cultivating this knowledge will also help you down the line as you sit university and job interviews. What’s more, it may also help you to figure out what medical specialty you would like to pursue later on in your career. When reflecting on your skill-set, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I do really well?
  • What areas for development can I identify?
  • What are the skills that I really enjoy using?

What’s the Difference Between Hard & Soft Skills?

As you enter the workforce and start applying to jobs, one of the things you will have to understand is the difference between hard and soft skills.

The term “hard skills” refers to skills that you have learnt for a specific job. As a doctor, these would include things such as clinical knowledge, ICT skills, and proficiency in a foreign language. Many employers scrutinize a candidate’s hard skills in order to determine whether or not they will make it to the interview stage.

“Soft skills” are more personality-based and these include things like communication, teamwork and time management. Doctors with a strong bedside manner will typically have excellent soft skills. To successfully secure a position, you will need to demonstrate that you have the right mix of relevant hard and soft skills.

What Skills Are Needed to Be A Doctor?

  1. Problem-Solving

During your career as a doctor, one of the key skills you will need to have is problem-solving. Much like a detective, doctors need to be able to gather clues from the patient about their symptoms and run tests to identify the cause. At times, this may require some outside-the-box thinking as not every patient presentation will be clear-cut. There may be an extra layer of complexity if the patient themselves struggles to communicate with you about their symptoms – for example, if they are a young child or if they don’t speak English.

  1. Teamwork

Whether you’re a hospital doctor or a GP, you will need to work as part of a wider team of multidisciplinary professionals. Your ability to work well with others is important as the quality of teamwork and collaboration will have a direct affect on the standard of care that you deliver to patients. Some examples of working well in a team include:

  • Working for the good of the group as a whole
  • Listening to others
  • Taking everyone’s ideas on board
  • Offering your own ideas
  • Sharing responsibility with others
  • Striving towards a harmonious working environment
  • Showing respect to others
  1. Attention to Detail

Good medical professionals notice everything. Despite busy schedules and heavy workloads, it’s essential that you treat every patient with the same level of attention and don’t neglect the little things. This doesn’t just refer to medical procedures, you should also be mindful of and follow-up on any red flags that arise no matter how insignificant they may seem.

  1. Decision-Making

One of the hallmarks of a good doctor is the ability to make sound decisions. It helps to have a logical and analytical personality as you will often rely on data and test results to help you make the best choice possible. In some cases, you will need to make snap decisions so it’s critical to remain cool, calm and professional while under intense pressure.

  1. Professionalism
A professional is someone who can do his best work when he doesn’t feel like it.” – Alistair Cooke, Writer

As a medical professional you will have a duty to treat every single patient in a courteous and respectful manner. As such, you will need to display tact and emotional maturity in your interactions with patients. You also have a responsibility to ensure that all of your fellow team members provide the best quality of care at all times. Your professionalism will make patients with potentially embarrassing symptoms feel more comfortable. Another important part of this is not rising to verbal or even physical abuse from patients.

  1. Leadership

There will no doubt be many times throughout your medical career when you will have to take on a leadership position. This will especially be the case if you work as a partner in a practice. As such, it’s vital that you feel confident taking responsibility when need be. This will involve leading by example and providing support for others when things don’t go well. Showing strong and empathetic leadership skills will not only help to bring the best out in your team, but it will also inspire confidence in patients.

  1. Communication Skills

According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, communication skills are cited as the top quality sought in job candidates. Throughout your career as a doctor, you will interact with people from all walks of life. Medicine is a complex subject matter, so you must be able to clearly communicate with patients about their symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment plans. As such, it’s key that you develop effective communication skills so you can deliver the best care possible. Good communication skills will also help you to build a positive and effective working relationship with your colleagues.

  1. Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
One of the essential qualities of the clinician is interest in humanity, for the secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient.” – Frances W Peabody, The Care of the Patient

Peter Salovey and John Mayer define emotional intelligence (EQ) as “the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour”. Emotional intelligence can be broken down into four main categories: perceiving, using, understanding, and managing emotions. In many cases, you will be engaging with patients at a key event in their lives so it’s important to be able to show the appropriate level of tact, sensitivity, empathy, compassion and understanding. These skills will particularly come in handy when delivering bad news.

  1. Ability to Perform Under Pressure

The ability to stay calm under pressure is one of the key skills needed to be a doctor. You will be dealing with stressful situations everyday so you to be able to stay composed, focused and productive under pressure. Given the stressful nature of the job, many medical professionals experience burnout. To minimise your risk of burning out, you will need to develop effective stress management techniques. It is also a good idea to keep up interests outside work that allow you to “switch off” from the demands of the job.

Illustration of three CVs

How to Describe Your Skills on Your Medical CV

  • Look carefully at the job description and make a note of which skills are explicitly mentioned or implied. Adjust your CV accordingly to demonstrate your abilities in these areas.

  • Under each role in the “experience” section of your CV, be sure to detail the competencies listed in the job description and give examples of the most relevant skills first.

  • Demonstrate confidence by drawing attention to your awards or to praise that employers have given you.

  • If you don’t have much highly-relevant experience, you can still highlight the transferable skills that you have gained from previous roles and experiences.

  • Depending on your chosen medical specialty, you may choose to include a “clinical skills” section to your CV to supplement your work history. This will add extra information about any clinical experiences and skills you have that are relevant to the new role.

For more tips on how to write a medical CV that wows employers, check out our dedicated guide!