Do you have the traits of a leading surgeon?

By: Dinethra Menon - MedicalSearch Writer
07 May, 2015

A successful career as a surgeon can depend on your personality. Traits and characteristics can determine if you are suited for long-term patient care.

Choosing a medical specialty has been the subject of various research to find a link to traits and personality. While a direct causal link hasn't been found, there does seem to exist certain personality traits suited to different specialties.

The way you react to workplace stress, culture of your chosen specialty and job satisfaction can be predicted by your learning style and personality.

If you're a medical student considering a career in surgery or a surgeon who is assessing your career choice, it might be useful to know how your personality could respond to aspects of being a surgeon, such as perseverance, long hours and expertise.

Common personality traits

While it may seem a generalisation that certain personality traits are common to surgeons, a study of doctors found surgeons formed a homogenous group with common personality characteristics and temperament. These traits included extroverted, adjusted, practical, social, structured and competitive.

Other studies have found surgeons to be less stressed, frank and rebellious in comparison to doctors from other specialties.

Breaking down stereotypes

While research has found clusters of personality traits, it's also important not to categorise surgeons into personality types. Stereotypes can form preconceptions for patients that may potentially harm the doctor-patient relationship.

Anecdotal evidence does suggest a stereotype of negative personality traits found in surgeons such as arrogance, authoritarianism and unfriendliness. The evidence assessed the stereotypical personality traits of surgeons, and found a discrepancy between perceived traits of over achievement and surgeons possess and traits actually found in surgeons.  

This can present an opportunity for surgeons to break down stereotypes and facilitate improved outcomes for working in multidisciplinary teams.

Surgeons as leaders

Doctors require fundamental qualities of leadership. Working as a surgeon means leading teams, taking responsibility for patient outcomes, making quick decisions and handling errors.

Leadership in surgery also has its rewards for fast results in high-pressure patient situations.

Surgeons need to understand what leadership means for colleagues and for surgical registrars, and to focus on aspects of their personality that will enable strong leadership.

Is your personality suited?

Knowing which of your personality traits potentially suit a career in surgery is the first step to job satisfaction, and ultimately patient care. It can also predict whether you will have a long-lasting career as a surgeon; one that shows your dedication to reach the top of your field.