JAANUU » What Makes A Good Doctor? 9 Top Qualities and Skills

What Makes A Good Doctor? 9 Top Qualities and Skills

group of doctors wearing blue scrubs
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Suppose you want to earn a great reputation as a doctor after medical school (which we know you do). In that case, you’ll already have a basic idea of how much hard work it entails. 

You have to earn a degree, followed by med school. Then there’s your residency and countless exams and tests. Oh, and don’t forget the ability to memorize facts down to the smallest detail. 

On top of this technical ability, you’ll also need bedside manner to really hone those most-desired skills of a doctor. Not everyone can master their temperament, so having a compassionate nature is critical for being a good physician. 

Here are the good doctor qualities you’ll need for success.


doctor wearing white lab scrubs

Sure, it’s easy to deliver good news, but a great doctor applies that oratory skill to all situations, even the unfortunate ones where you have to have a difficult conversation with a patient.

Trust can be breached between clinicians and patients if you don’t deliver bad news honestly. Unaware of all the facts, the patient can end up making the wrong decision regarding their long-term health. 

Whatever the situation, you should deliver the truth with empathy. 

Empathetic behavior

Empathy extends beyond delivering bad news and is one of several signs of a good doctor. When patients come into your office looking for help, they want patience, understanding and validation toward their healthcare concerns; they don’t want you to dismiss their fears or desire for medical care. 

Empathy is a state of mind and a series of verbal and nonverbal cues you give to others to express your intent. All three need to work in tandem to put your patients at ease.


As a doctor, you must adhere to a much higher level of professional behavior. Often, you wear scrubs or another type of medical uniform to convey your position to others. You need to respect doctor-patient confidentiality and avoid conflicts of interest. 

This rigid code of ethics within the health care system is put in place to protect your patients, who come to you in a vulnerable state. Respect applies to how you speak to your patients, too. Without this respect, a patient can feel upset, pressured or uncomfortable with the treatment plan. 

Humane treatment

One essential quality of a good doctor is providing humane treatment. Yes, empathy is the act of understanding and validating your patients’ concerns; however, humane treatment means that kindness should always be part of caring for your patients. 

As a doctor, you need to look at your patients like human beings and not statistics. A good listener will offer equal treatment to all patients, whatever their financial or emotional status. Many times these factors are beyond your patient’s control.

Good communicators

doctor wearing blue scrubs

As a doctor, you will spend a lot of your time communicating. Whether it’s to your peers, coworkers, patients or family members, someone will always need your help. If you’re speaking by email, in-person or phone, you need to quickly and succinctly explain complex concepts. 

Good communication skills equal good care and affect how willing a patient is to engage with treatment. For example, by going through the benefits of a particular treatment plan, there’s less chance a patient will be confused by their options.


Compassionate care means that you can relate to another person’s pain by putting yourself in their shoes. You’ll be sensitive to other people’s mood swings, and you’ll know how to navigate them with ease. You’ll have the patience and understanding to deal with upset patients because you know how much stress they’re under and how it can make them act out.

While compassionate care can be acquired and improved through regular practice, this is a skill you can’t do without. If it doesn’t come to you naturally, you may find a doctor’s career difficult.


More often than not, doctors need to play Sherlock Holmes and do some sleuthing to figure out what’s wrong with their patients. The end goal? To decide what treatment plan works best. 

This sleuthing requires a naturally curious mind to look at a patient’s symptoms from all angles. Use your medical knowledge to your advantage instead of slapping a bandage on for a quick fix. Keep that curiosity reasonably boundless, too, to avoid burnout.

Technically skilled

Near the top of the list of what it means to be a good doctor is having a wealth of skills. Not just in your bedside manner but in the complex, technical abilities you learned through your years of study and practice.

Generally, we all make mistakes, even if we don’t work in the medical industry. However, when you wield authority over another person’s healthcare, your technical skills should function at the top of their game, or you’ll put them at risk. 

The best doctors will be comfortable being held to those extremely high standards for long periods.

Emotionally intelligent

doctor wearing pink scrubs

Emotional intelligence is not the same as being book smart or having a comprehensive medical education. Instead, it refers to how your empathy, compassion, communication skills and curiosity come together to create a holistic healthcare approach. 

With a high level of emotional intelligence, you’re observant of other people’s moods. You’ll be able to read a person’s body language and tone of voice to see how they feel about a treatment plan. You’ll also find yourself more aware of a patient’s personal boundaries and know how to respect their autonomy.

Examine yourself before you start your doctor’s career

Of course, just because you don’t have all these skills doesn’t mean you can’t acquire them. You can hone these talents through years of practice in med school and beyond, aided by a heavy dose of medical supply gift cards or student discounts

However, this list will give you a general idea of the basics, and if you honestly have none of those basics, there’s nothing wrong with considering another career. Thankfully, in the world of healthcare, the opportunities are seemingly endless, and no matter the path down which you ultimately decide to go, we’ll always be there to support you.

If you need some additional info on med school, be sure to check out our post on how long it takes to become a doctor.

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