What Makes a Good Doctor?

What Makes a Good Doctor?

Have you ever sat in a public place and heard people talking about a recent experience with their doctor? They are often complaining about a recent visit to their local GP that has not solved their problem. Sometimes you hear comments that just do not ring true. They may have had a change of doctor. Most keep on seeing the same family doctor. I cannot recall anyone saying they would change their doctor. It seems that he or she is local and as a doctor should be able to resolve all their ailments. Of course, the truth lies in understanding the patient-doctor relationship

So, what does make a good doctor or what makes a bad doctor?

Firstly, we need to deal with the English language – yet again. By good, I do not mean that I am particularly interested in their health, welfare, happiness, or virtue but I am vitally interested in them having the suitable and desirable qualities that are good for my healthcare and wellbeing. I think we need to have a basic set of questions answered before we make this decision. That list should include the following;

  1. Do they listen and understand you by using feedback?  Yes/No?
  2. Do they speak to me in my language or theirs? Yes/No?
  3. Do they display compassion? Yes/No?
  4. Do they demonstrate genuine concern for you? Yes/No?
  5. Do they admit to having little knowledge on a subject but commit to finding out for you? Yes/No?
  6. Do they follow through? Yes/No?
  7. Do they have a contact protocol if you need them in a time of distress? Yes/No?
  8. Do they answer your questions in person? Yes/No?
  9. Do they respond to your correspondence within a few days? Yes/No?
  10. Do they have sound medical knowledge? Yes/No?
  11. Do they clearly explain to you what may be the cause of your visit? Yes/No?
  12. Do they clearly explain the usage of medications prescribed? Yes/No?

These are not in order and contain just some of the questions you may wish to ask when deciding on a family doctor or specialist. In quality assurance, we ask many questions in determining that a product or process is the best quality possible and then we develop management systems to ensure that it happens exactly the same way every time. You need to ask yourself; “is my doctor fit for the purpose he trained and is he fit for purpose to meet my high-quality needs?”  Do I have the confident assurance that I have chosen a good doctor Yes/No?

My take on a good doctor

Recently I had a conversation with a doctor’s receptionist who told me the doctor was very busy. He can only be contacted once a week and does not reply to his correspondence. This seemed to her and obviously her employer to be a justifiable stance to take. I would very much disagree with this point of view. Being busy is never an acceptable reason for ignoring your patients, it is just an excuse for a lack of concern, arrogance and most probably poor time management skills and staff.

We live in a world where historically the medical profession works our junior doctors for 100 hours per week in our hospitals and see it as good training. This illogical piece of reasoning means the least trained are subjected to the most inhumane working conditions and we expected this to produce an error-free medical system and with the best-qualified doctors who will be able to function under extraordinary stress and do no harm! It is changing at a heavy-eyed pace. The funding sources of our hospitals are of course very grateful for this piece of convenient stupidity.

It led me to think about how many people entrust the care of their body and mind to a person they do not know. How much research you do before choosing your doctor? Or do you just go with your local option? How many understand this the most important decision of their lifetime? The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has an excellent article covering this subject which I strongly suggest you give it a read.  

In conclusion

 I hold a lifelong belief that mostly you get the doctor you deserve. There are occasions when we have no say over the attending physician but those times are much rarer than one thinks. My point is to change doctors until you get the one who meets your needs and places you in the prime of place. I travel well over an hour each way to see mine. It is your responsibility to engage a doctor and not by good luck!   

My doctor has these words on his desk within his eyesight so that he remains balanced and ever mindful of his fallibility and the reason why he is sitting there.

 “My faith in doctors is immense. Just one thing spoils it. Their pretence of unauthorised omniscience”


I can honestly say that among my very best friends are many, many doctors and this written piece is not about bashing their profession but rather about putting to death the myth that we revere a person just because they are a doctor as many of us were taught by our parents. Choose well.   

Never venerate your doctor because of a plaque hanging on a wall! Accord them the respect they generate due to your ongoing relationship with them.

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