Physician Staffing Blog

Career Insights

What Makes a Good Doctor?

July 11, 2018

What Makes a Good Doctor

Qualities patients expect in their physicians

By Doug Bennett, Contributor

Competency, communication, compassion, confidentiality and convenience—“the five C’s”—are the most desirable qualities patients expect when seeking care from physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners and allied health professionals.


No one likes to wait a long time for an appointment or to travel a long distance when in need of medical attention. It is the one time in life when time feels most precious. But recent studies show the average waiting time to see a physician in major U.S. cities is now 24 days. Because of this, patients increasingly expect physicians to offer early morning, late afternoon, evening, and weekend hours. They also expect brief wait times and more immediate access to physicians or advanced practitioners who utilize options like telemedicine. Some patients, particularly the elderly and disabled, are demanding the convenience of physicians who make house calls—an old school approach that has experienced a comeback in recent years. Trying to accommodate patients by offering more convenient access is one way to become a better doctor.


With so much emphasis in recent years placed on ensuring the privacy and security of patient medical records, confidentiality might seem like a given. But not all physicians or other healthcare professionals remain vigilant about protecting the confidentiality of their patients’ data and information. Compliance with current HIPAA and other regulatory guidelines is crucial for all health workers.

One way to keep up with current best practices is to routinely check the HIPPA Index for the latest trends in patient data security and confidentiality. Keep in mind that failure to comply with ongoing changes to health information privacy policy can result in legal action, so it is paramount to stay on top of developments in this area. If you do nothing else, be certain to keep patient medical records secure and never discuss patient medical information with non-essential personnel.


Perhaps the most difficult yet most important time in a physician’s career is when it becomes necessary to convey a terminal diagnosis to a patient. Patients need compassion; however, compassion doesn’t always come naturally to physicians who must share bad news. The good news is that compassion can be learned. Research shows that physicians who participate in programs that practice experiential learning skills—such as role modeling—were more humane and compassionate with their patients than physicians who did not participate. Again, compassion can be learned, and it is a crucial characteristic of a good doctor.


Patience is the key to good meaningful communication with patients. Patients immediately sense when a doctor is in a hurry or isn’t willing to spend time explaining complex medical concepts in a clear, cogent way. Studies show that patients who rate their physicians low on communication skills and bedside manner are more likely to switch to another physician. Patients also can confuse a physician’s poor communication skills with incompetence, which is often not the case.

It is incumbent upon physicians to slow down and take a little extra time to ensure patients and their families fully comprehend the information being shared, and to reassure patients that their concerns or fears are being heard and taken into consideration. A physician who possesses good communication skills can improve health outcomes for patients. Studies demonstrate that the quality of communication occurring during history-taking and the initial evaluation, as well as when treatment plans are conveyed, all directly influence patient outcomes.


Patients rightfully expect their physicians to make correct diagnoses, select the best treatment approach, perform any necessary procedures and follow up after treatment. So, what can physicians do to sustain consistent high levels of competency? It helps to ask at least once each day—and certainly before each patient interaction—“What can I do to be a better doctor?” This ritual helps reframe your thinking so you remember to approach each case with a fully open mind, thereby reducing the risk of making an incorrect diagnosis based on assumptions or preliminary diagnoses made by other staff or the patients themselves.

Become the best doctor you can become by taking advantage of Merritt Hawkins’ unparalleled healthcare staffing resources. We offer over 20 years of experience recruiting and placing physicians in rewarding career positions. Please browse through our extensive online jobs database and call today to speak with one of our professional placement specialists.

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