There are common traits amongst doctors that if you also have, it may be a sign that you should pursue medicine. Some are obvious, others not so much. If you don’t have these traits, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be a doctor as this is not an exhaustive list.
1) You Are Curious
You have to learn a lot of information in your pursuit to become a doctor. Forcing your way through it by sheer willpower is not a method that will last. You need a certain level of curiosity and willingness to learn. How the body works, why something goes wrong, why the treatment works etc. Having this curiosity will allow you to learn because you want to, not because you have to. You will learn because you want to use the knowledge to help your patients, not just so you can pass the exam and move on to the next one (even though this is the case sometimes).
2) You Are A Leader
An attending physician is where the buck stops. You are responsible for leading the team and calling the shots to help your patients. You’ll be working with other attendings, residents, nurses, social workers etc. Your ability to take on that responsibility and make sure the team is running smoothly towards their goals will be a huge marker of success as a physician. You are expected to have the most knowledge and experience on the team and ultimately you are responsible for the patient outcome, good or bad. Regardless of the actions of your residents or the rest of the team, the final responsibility falls on you to have a plan, and execute that plan.
3) You Can Work Under Pressure
Even though being a doctor isn’t like the shows, there are themes that do carry over. Working under pressure is one of those regardless of the specialty you decide to pursue. If you are an acute trauma surgeon, the pressure is obvious as the patient’s life is literally in your hands. This pressure is less obvious in other specialities but certainly exists. If you are a family doctor, that pressure is still there. The pressure to know a bit of everything and make the right call is there and the patient’s life is still in your hands even though it may not be as acute as the previous example. You are responsible for catching early signs of a serious diagnosis, do the right tests, give the right meds making sure there won’t be any contraindications etc. Regardless of what type of doctor you are, your decisions directly influence another human’s life and that is huge pressure. You cannot fold and hide from the pressure. There will be help along the way but once you are an attending, the pressure ultimately falls on your shoulders.
4) You Genuinely Want To Help People
You don’t have to like everyone you meet, and in fact you’ll end up liking less people as you go through the medical school process. But at the end of the day, you have to be genuinely interested in helping people to succeed as a doctor. Compared to what you invest into this process, money or time, there are much better ways to make money. There are high paying jobs with much better hours, predictability and less pressure. After you account for the money and the title, being a doctor comes down to helping people. Again this doesn’t mean you have to like all people. Some surgeons have said they “became surgeons so they don’t have to talk to the patient, just fix their problem”. If you are fulfilled by helping people and can’t imagine yourself doing anything else, this may be for you.
5) You Like To Push Yourself
You enjoy the grind. You enjoy the process of facing a challenge and seeing what you’re made of. Medical school is tough, and residency is on a whole other level. A part of you has to be curious to see what your highest potential is and finding out what you’re capable of. Every step of this journey will test you and your ability to push forward when you don’t want to. No one likes to study for the MCAT or USMLEs, or take unfair criticism from doctors. The easy choice is to give up and do something else when you run into things like these, so know your mental fortitude will be tested. 80% of the battle is showing up and doing what you don’t want to, when it needs to be done. If you’re going to last this long journey, you have to find a way to enjoy the process and the tests that see what you are made of.