Characteristics of a Doctor

You need to be able to work under pressure and remain calm as a doctor.

You need to be able to work under pressure and remain calm as a doctor.

You can be the most compassionate and caring individual in the world, but if you can’t beat the competition to get into medical school in the first place, you won’t be able to become a doctor. In 2010, for example, there were 18,000 medical school openings in the United States and close to 42,000 applicants, according to a "New York Times" article. Besides being smart and good in science, you need to have a few other characteristics to make it in the field.

Even Tempered

You can’t be the sort of person who gets easily upset when you’re a doctor. Even getting through the grueling schoolwork and residency training requires a pretty even-tempered personality. If you tend to get emotional when you’re stressed, this may not be a good fit for you. By being more even-tempered, you’re also more likely to be a patient person too, a quality you’re going to need as patients often need extra attention, procedures require a steady hand and many processes in health care require slow progress. Then you have to deal with colleagues who don’t always meet your expectations.

Physical Stamina

You’ll tap into your physical stamina even before you get into school, studying for the all-important med school entrance exam. Then you’ll have to undergo a few years of 20-plus hour days when you do clinical rotations and work a residency. On the job, you need to rely on your physical stamina in the operating room when surgeries require you to spend hours bending over a patient. You may have to move patients when you examine them in your office. Additionally, you need manual dexterity skills to work with sharp and delicate instruments.


Attention to details can literally mean the difference between life and death so you’d best possess a conscientious nature when you become a doctor. You’ll be much more successful in school too if your conscientiousness translates into good study habits. It’s vital to record the details of every visit with your patients and then to translate those details into the record. Mistakes like giving someone the wrong medication or missing an important symptom can lead to disastrous results for your patients.


A successful doctor is observant. Little gets by you. Whether you’re examining a lesion on a patient’s back or reading an X-ray of a spinal cord, you’ve got be able to concentrate and notice even the tiniest abnormalities to effectively treat your patients. When looking at a patient or an X-ray, you’ve also got to be able to visualize the entire person and the relationship of each body part to the next to make proper diagnoses and understand the relation of one condition to another.

About the Author

Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."

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