From the moment I started medical school I was asked the question – “What
kind of doctor would you like to be?”
As a medical student, I often find myself
thinking about my personality traits and wonder if they are the right ones to
become that ‘good doctor’ in my chosen speciality.
As I progress through medical school, new
challenges in the profession and how I deal with these are changing, so naturally
the premise of what makes a good doctor is evolving. Which then poses the
question – will I ever fully understand what being a good doctor actually means?
The medical profession is one of the
oldest in the world and graduating medical students in Australia even declare their
commitment to the profession, their patients, and humanity through the World
Medical Association's Declaration of Geneva, a contemporary companion to the
2,500-year-old Hippocratic Oath1.
While some parts of the oath have not
aged well, maintaining patient confidentiality and acting in a way that does
not harm our patients, remains a central concept to what it takes to be good
Medicine gives us the opportunity to make
a significant impact to our communities, by serving our patients.
Living in such a diverse country, we are
fortunate to study and work with many different cultures. Being exposed to
these different cultures will put us in good stead when we are treating
patients from different backgrounds to our own.
our own health
There has been a long held view that a
good doctor should cope with pressure, work long hours, never experience mental
illness and if they do, never admit it!
Sadly though, The Beyond Blue National Mental Health Survey of
Doctors and Medical Students in 2013 revealed doctors have higher
rates of psychological distress and suicide attempts than the general
population. Approximately 40% of doctors and students felt that medical
professionals with a history of mental health disorders were perceived as less
competent than their peers2.
Hopefully the tide is turning, with
self-care and mental health a key focus of our medical studies. Initiatives
like #crazysocks4docs day
are also seeking to combat the stigma surrounding mental health conditions and encourage
doctors to be more open about mental illness.
The safety of patients is fundamental to
a doctor’s role and ideally a good doctor would never make mistakes.
Unfortunately, the reality is that even good doctors make mistakes – it’s the
reason Avant has been around for over 125 years.
It’s important that we recognise and
understand the importance of reflection when mistakes are made and we work
constructively to improve upon them.
Self-reflection and de-briefing has been incorporated
in to my studies and it’s part of the Medical Board of
Australia’s Profession Performance Framework. However, the recent
case of UK paediatric registrar Dr Bawa-Garba, who
was convicted of medical negligence manslaughter, has shone a light on the use
of doctor’s reflective statements and has caused concern amongst the
Avant advocates on the
importance of preserving a culture of open disclosure and how we can safeguard
it in the medical profession. Furthermore, the Avant Foundation has
been established with the goal of furthering research, education and leadership
in important areas of quality, safety and professionalism.
There will always be certain elements
that are essential to being a good doctor. These include coping under pressure without
believing you are indestructible, and promoting a supportive culture.
As medical students, and eventually
doctors, we need to be open to admitting and reflecting upon our mistakes, even
though they may put us in a vulnerable position.
Being a good doctor may be challenging in
the ever-changing world of medicine, but it remains worth it.
Tips to make medical school easier
advantage of as many different learning opportunities as you can – they can
help make you a more well-rounded person and a better doctor.
less but often, rather than trying to cram in too much in a short period of
flexible and open to trying new strategies, if what you are currently doing
isn’t working well.
a realistic plan for what you want to achieve each day or week and prioritise,
but accept that life is likely to get in the way no matter how good your plan
that you will make mistakes and practice constructive self-reflection.
is a learning experience that you can extract something productive from, even
if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.
your time where you can – if you have a long commute, have some flashcards or
other material to look over.
keep the bigger picture in mind and remind yourself that what you are learning
can make you a better doctor.
Avant’s Doctors’ Health and
Wellbeing website provides resources and advice tailored specifically to
the needs of Australian doctors.
Avant’s Medico-legal Advisory Service
provides expert advice to help minimise the chance of a complaint or claim
occurring via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1800 128 268 for expert advice, 24/7 in emergencies.
Medical Association, AMA Adopts WMA
Declaration of Geneva, 28 September 2006, viewed 4
September 2018, https://ama.com.au/media/ama-adopts-wma-declaration-geneva
National Mental Health Survey of Doctors
and Medical Students, October 2013, viewed 5 September 2018, https://www.beyondblue.org.au/docs/default-source/research-project-files/bl1132-report---nmhdmss-full-report_web