Top 10 Qualities Highly Effective Doctors


After such a great response to our last ranking of rankings, The Final Word on America’s Top 10 Nursing Schools, we’re back in search of the final word again – this time, to take a look at what qualities patients want in a doctor. With more and more hospitals under pressure to improve their doctors’ bedside manners, we look at what matters to both the patients they treat and the nurses they work alongside.

Traits of a Good Doctor

To do so, we aggregated together rankings and comments from lists across the board: from forum and social media postings to systematic studies, such as the most widely credited one of its kind released by the Mayo Clinic. We also asked for your input over on social media, which we’ve shared below. There’s still the chance to share your thoughts too – either in our poll or in the comments below!

Want to know what patients are demanding for their health insurance dollars? Check out our final word on the qualities Americans are asking for before they choose a physician:

1. Confident

Perhaps, more than any other quality, patients seemed to want to have a sense that their doctor knows what they’re doing…and knows it. Whether dispensing treatment or dispensing advice, patients want a doctor who has, and who inspires, confidence. Over and over again, patients highlighted – above all else – their desire to have a doctor whose manner and actions reassure them that someone qualified is in the driver’s seat: Not at all an unreasonable request when dealing with your health!

2. Empathetic

“The ‘ideal’ doctor is someone who validates my pain, listens to my problem and treats me with professional courtesy,” says one patient. Above and beyond almost all other attributes, patients who were asked said they value a doctor who tries to understand what they am feeling and experiencing, physically and emotionally, and communicates that understanding to them.

3. Skilled

More than just being book-smart, patients want a doctor who is talented at what they do: A doctor who uses evidence, method, and intuition, as well as other subjective and objective items in their toolkit to provide the fastest, most effective treatment possible.

4. Focused

Even more important than knowledge for patients is whether their doctor is “in the room” with them and not distracted with the flurry of other demands on their time. A past study suggested that doctors no longer have the luxury of building a relationship with their patients; in other words, an attitude of “get in, diagnose, on to the next person” now prevails. A dream situation for any patient would be to snag a doctor who has somehow found how to move beyond this mindset.

5. Knowledgeable

Higher-up on the list of priorities, patients – quite sensibly – want a doctor that has the broadest-possible general knowledge of medicine. They also want a doctor who is committed to continuing education, keeping abreast of the latest techniques and advances to the benefit of their patients.

6. Unbiased

Time and again, patients want to know that their doctor is not owned by big pharma. They also want to know simply that doctors are able to give unbiased advice, free from natural prejudice, non-factual opinions, and corporate influence.

7. Lives and promotes a healthy lifestyle

We were amazed this didn’t get mentioned even more, but nevertheless, many commented that their doctors should set an example as healthy citizens. This includes things such as being a non-smoker, eating right, exercising and maintaining a healthy physique, as well as taking the time to proactively emphasize the benefits of staying healthy, especially at routine check-ups rather than dispensing medical advice only after one or more things have started to go wrong.

8. Respectful

“The doctor takes my input seriously and works with me,” is the way one of the hundreds of respondents to the Mayo survey best summed this up. Other oft-mentioned attributes that we felt fall into this category are a willingness to value patients’ wishes in the decision-making process and going to bat for patients with any other medical professionals they may refer them to.

9. Honest and forthright

“Tell it to me straight, doc. I can take it.” Even patients who were a little squeamish about bad news wanted their doctor to bite the bullet and just tell them the news in plain language. They want their doctor to just rip the band aid off; whether or not they themselves are willing to. Such patients also would be more forgiving of a doctor who made a mistake but at least admitted it straight away.

10. Humane

Among the ten most common items on patient checklists boiled down to whether their potential doctor had the ability to be caring and compassionate. In other words, patients want a doctor who is interested in their patients as human beings, not just information on a chart. Respondents also cited the importance of a doctor who actually remembers them.

We asked you the question on social media: “Whether it’s as a patient or colleague, what is the most important trait you look for in a ‪doctor?” Many of you echoed the traits found in the Mayo Clinic survey; qualities such as humility, empathy, and knowledge were particularly important for you. We spotted some new ones to consider:Doctor traits important to a patient

Interestingly one of our followers told us:

Doctor Nurse Quote

When thinking of a doctor as a colleague, the biggest concern for you was that they have respect for the nurses they work with.

Have these qualities and looking for a new assignment? Check out Soliant’s physician jobs.

Do you agree or disagree with anything you’ve read here? Let us know which of the top ten traits comes out on top for you. Vote in our poll now:

Which trait do you value you the most in a doctor?

Were you surprised by any items? What qualities do you think make for a good doctor? Any traits that matter to you but aren’t on this list? Let us know in the comments area below!


16 comments on “Top 10 Qualities Highly Effective Doctors”

  1. Non-elitist. Doctors think they have the most stressful job and trivialize what every-day people go through. They don’t have a clue about stress. Stress is 2 people working full time jobs to earn $40,000 on which to raise a family of 4. Meanwhile, an MD charges $600 for a 1 hour visit or $10,000 for a 1 hour surgery. Get a clue, folks!

  2. The healthcare industry has gone through so many changes in the last 35 years. One thing that continues to remain consistent is that we can get the care and treatment we deserve, it just takes some time on our part.

    I personally sit down and talk to healthcare providers, more or less interview them prior to using their services. I believe I now have a great team of healthcare professionals that know me as myself and not another “number on the wall”

    There are many, many great healthcare professionals out there and I praise their dedication to their their choosen profession.

  3. I agree with these qualities a 100%. My biggest “thing to look for” in a physician is the confidence factor. A confident doctor that knows his trade goes a long way. This puts me at ease and forms a bond of trusts and repeat business.

  4. I appreciate a knowledgeable internist who loves what he/she does enough to familiarize themselves with the latest research on healthcare. Particularly the ones who treat their patients from a holistic perspective…realizing that often what ails us can’t be solved with a prescription.

  5. I agree with this list. I want my doctor to be knowlegable and confident but also caring, compassionate and empathize with my problem.

  6. I certainly agree with this list and, above all, I believe bedside manner is most important for any doctor. Without compassion for his/her patient, how can one trust the person they’re entrusting their lives to?

  7. I agree with b greenwald about physicians being non-elitist. I worked at the Mayo Clinic for several years and they taught us that the patient comes first. It was refreshing to get back to the heart of medicine. I’ve since retired but I’m looking for a locum tenens job in the Maryland / DC area. I’m looking for a reputable, honest locum tenens company. Do you have any locums job openings or can you provide a list of locum tenens companies?

  8. A great way to travel and gain experience is to work as a locum tenes doctor. I would like to know more about how I can learn about locum tenens jobs. Can Soliant help me with with a locums position, travel and housing?

  9. Doctors do not have a clue about stress? At least 12 years in school being a broke student is not stressful? Being in $150,000 debt is NOT stressful? Being responsible for other people’s lives is NOT stressful? Two people earning $20,000–I’m assuming you flip burgers or do some laymen job. Yup, it must be so stressful for you since you do not have to be responsible for other people’s lives. Trying to feed a family is stressful, but do not make such conclusion that physicians do not undergo stress. You have no idea. If a doctor is hardworking and spent those many years in school, why would they not deserve such great pay? Sounds like you are just sour because you could not further your education to do something better.

  10. Yes, I am certain raising a family and working such long hours is extremely exhausting and stressful. Being a physician, working 80-100 hours a week as a resident, not having the Holidays off, being on call working nights and weekends, and treating patients sometimes who are on their death bed or acutely ill in the ICU while trying to pay off tremendous debt and raising a family is also extremely stressful. We know what we ourselves go through and unfortunately in today’s world not many empathize with others. I hope you both find ways to decrease your stress level and overcome your current situations.

  11. Love the list. Important for me is a doctor who works with me and my symptoms as a ‘whole’ – seeing the connections and understanding in the round, stepping back to see the whole picture and working this out with me. This gets lost in the 10 minute consultation of one symptom – one response, so it’s a joy to have recently found a GP who made these connections beyond a single symptom.

  12. Thanks for the helpful post on the top 10 traits of highly effective doctors. I just moved to a new area, which means I have to find a new family doctor. I would love to be able to find a doctor with these traits. I especially think that the doctor being unbiased so you know that when they give you a suggestion, they have no other agenda. Thanks for the help!

  13. It’s good to know what makes a good doctor. We need to find a new one in our new neighborhood after we move, so this is great. I definitely want to deal with someone who is knowledgeable in their field, for sure!

  14. We all has a high expectation when meeting up our Internal Medicine Doctor. We always hear about second opinion when not satisfied with the first diagnostics. A word of mouth is very powerful leads when the Doctor in town is the best.

  15. Strongly agree with many of these traits a doctor should have. Thanks for sharing!


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