Help this introvert become a better doctor!

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Hi. Firstly, a big Thank-you to IntrovertZone for helping me come to terms with being an introvert. I’ve gained so much self-confidence after I discovered this website and began to understand myself better.

I’m 24 years old, recently graduated out of med school, and just started interning in a hospital. I want to know if there are any introverts working in the healthcare field out here, their experiences and inputs as they battle through an extrovert-dominated atmosphere, and also if anyone has anything to say about introverted doctors from a patient’s perspective.

Here are some of my own observations, based on what I’ve seen in my years of med school and now a month of internship:

- I believe introverts are better than extroverts when it comes to communicating with patients. I guess its because of out better listening capacities, vast amount of patience, and ability to empathise with another human being. Also, one-on-one communication works pretty well for us.

- On the other hand, I’m definitely worse off when it comes to communicating with my colleagues and senior doctors… I don’t know if this is just me, or something applicable to introverts in general. Its possibly because I’m not as assertive, tend to use as few words as possible, prefer written communication rather than oral reporting, and cannot act like an energiser bunny to make everyone notice me.

- The energiser bunny issue: I’m a quiet worker. Too much talking, high energy situations for prolonged durations stress me out. Plus, I like to observe first, without jumping into anything: as opposed to my extroverted fellow interns, who will be the first ones to volunteer when an opportunity arises to perform a new procedure for the first time. We introverts then get labelled as lazy, unenthusiastic when we’re actually just making sure we’re well prepared before jumping into something new.

- Thinking before answering: when asked a question, we introverts always fall behind because of our tendency of thinking before answering. And then we get labelled as unintelligent, which is actually not the case. And this unfairness really upsets me when it happens, and then we really have to work extra hard to not come off as dumb.

- I have no explanation for this: Kids love us introverts and are less likely to cry. I really don’t know how that works. I get so nervous around kids, and then they love me they crowd around me. I guess I must be doing something right.

- I’m not popular among doctors. I’m really concerned about this. I don’t know how its going to affect my future, if I’m going to miss out on any opportunities because of it. I try to be nice, to engage in small talk, to make them see that I’m intelligent, a hard worker, pretty good at what I do… but its never good enough. And then an extrovert will swoop in, do some sweet talking and BAM, suddenly I’m a nobody again. All that hard work, all that stress and frustration for nothing. And everytime this happens I just feel like giving up and living in a cave by myself and painting pictures on the walls.

- I’m popular among patients. I dunno how that works. But I am. Is this an introvert thing or just me?

Those are just off the top of my head, and I’m only just beginning my work as an intern. I really want to know if this is just me, or my introversion talking. If anyone has experienced these situations, I would love to hear about them and what you did about them or any other problems that you faced.

I also want to know what people’s impressions of an introvert in a healthcare setting are… If you think an introvert would make a good doctor, if you think any introvert characteristic gets in the way of being a good doctor, or if I should just plain change my job (does anyone know of any caves that I can spend the rest of my life in, painting on the walls? ;-) )

I’m really anxious (and curious) about how being a doctor is gonna turn out, if I’m gonna emerge a winner or a loser at the end of it, and how to make it in this high-pressure, stressed for time, loud, not-introvert-friendly atmosphere. And really, anything that you’ve gotta say will be greatly appreciated.

(Wow that was really long.)
Thanks for reading until the end! Hope I didn’t bore you to sleep :)
Nelly

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15 Comments

  1. I’m an introverted dentist and have observed the same things that you have. Patients tend to prefer a calm healthcare worker rather than the talkative “good personality” type. Extroverts seem to think they are helping people be at ease when they chat constantly, they don’t understand that the talking is mainly something that makes them feel good rather than the patient.

    I find it difficult to be joined the elbow to my assitant all day, especially if she is a loud, outgoing person. I work in a group where I do not have the ability to choose my help. Fortunately, I do have the authority to shut off the radio when I enter a treatment room. The staff hates that, but patients like the fact that I pay attention to them rather than letting distractions add to the excess stimulation that people are already feeling when they go to a doctor’s office.

    My advice is to continue as a doctor, but live below your meens. A bit of financial independance will give you the freedom you need to be sellective about where you work and the hours you keep. (I’ve cut back to part-time at a community clinic. That has increased my enjoyment of dentistry.)

  2. Introverted healthcare providers are the best — at least 30 percent of the population will be with me on that. Incidentally, I haven’t come across that many extroverted doctors. The better ones, the specialists and surgeons, tend to be quieter personalities. GPs and doctors in administrative roles tend to be louder

  3. I think introverts tend to do very well in service positions that require troble shootin(like medical services, customer service, help desks etc.L because half the job is LISTENING to the person and.decoding the issue. The trick is learning to balance your own needs at the same time. IThink the part you are under emphasizing in your analysis of yourself is how much your PATIENTS love you. They need you to listen, to focus on THEM. Also I think children e drawn to introverts because they instinctively know we will actualy listen to them. Don’t be nervouse, just do what you do best and listen to what they have to tell you.

  4. P.S. I’ve had an extroverted doctor for the last whike. I find her quite frustrating. It doesn’t feel like she listens and alwys seems to talk over me. I think I’d love to have you as a doctor. If you really want it go for it!!!

  5. I definitely prefer for a doctor to be calm, cool and collected. He/she doesn’t have to be overly friendly, but does have to listen and be knowledgeable. As long as you can do that, I think you’d be fine

  6. Michaela Chung on

    I definitely think introverts can make great doctors. I usually hate going to the doctor because I find they have a tendency to talk at me and interrupt me mid-sentence. The tendency of introverts to have slower conversations and to listen more works well in a doctor-patient interaction.

  7. I am not a doctor, but I had surgery 2 years ago and spent several days in the hospital. I personally did not like being treated by an extrovert. They flew in and flew out without taking the time to listen to me. I had one doctor who corrected everything I said, told me I didn’t know how I felt, and he never shut up. That was a nightmare. I coded twice while in the hospital and eventually was moved to Cardiac ICU. Some doctors would just pat my hand,” it’s going to be fine”, but wouldn’t answer any of my questions. My cardiologist is great. She’s more of an introvert. She takes the time to listen. She asks questions. She makes sure I understand.
    I do hear what you are saying about the competition between interns, but hang in there. Personally, I think the doctors are watching and see more than just the ones who step or answer first. In my Master’s level classes the students who were always first were not always right. The professor would call on some of the rest of us who didn’t have our hands up and agreed more with what we had to say.

  8. Hi there! Glad that I came across this. I’m a med student and an introvert. I’ve just finished my first year in med school. Being in med school for me is the hardest time of my life. I have to strive harder than my friends in academic. I was worried about my grades because I’m not active to answer questions. I hate when my dorm friends asked if something wrong when I’m inside my room all day. I think I’m crazy because I don’t like to hang out with others and at the same time loneliness is killing me.

    • Hey Michael !
      I understand you may have written this comment a long time ago but are you still struggling with the issue? I’m in final year of medical school & I have exactly the same problems. So glad I read your comment, so far I thought I was the only one.

  9. I am not a doctor, but I did work in the healthcare field for many years, doing everything from coding to medical records to receptionist work. I am also an introvert. It took me 10+ years to figure out why I never felt comfortable in any of these positions I held in multiple offices. Actually, I was downright miserable. Hated answering phones. Hated dealing with billing questions & angry patients. Hated dealing with co-workers who couldn’t understand why I was so quiet & “unsocial”. Hated obnoxious drug reps. Hated jerk doctors (no offense). Then in 2012 while working as a receptionist, I had a major panic attack at the front desk. I had to leave work & go see my physician to get anti anxiety meds. I had an epiphany. I just wasn’t suited to this type of work atmosphere. Allowing myself to recognize this and BE OKAY with it was a huge relief. It sounds like you like being a doctor from a patient standpoint. But you also mention wanting to paint on cave walls… twice. I know that was a joke, but painting must be on your mind for a reason. Maybe being a doctor isn’t who you are supposed to be. There are tons of ways to help people. Maybe you should explore other options. Explore who you are. It’s the best gift you could ever give to yourself. Once you accept who you are, a huge weight will be lifted. Good luck.

  10. Intronurse on

    Hi! I love this post. I’m a nursing student and lack the personality to have fun and jive with the extros. I find most of them offensive because they don’t listen… I had a friend(an acquaintance) whom I could not stand or live with because he doesnt listen to me… whenever I tell a story or talk, He listens for about five seconds and then looks away somewhere. Wtfudge. That’s why I am repulsed from him. Anyway, I’m really glad that you told your story. Im still on my first year of nursing school but my clinical instructor noted my self-confidence and good listening skills during the patient health history taking. Im glad I can do that. Finding this website is like a treasure and third home for me. thanks! Also working with you must be really a rewarding experience!

  11. Great comments, I am an introvert and my patients appreciate that. I have a full schedule of patients and appreciate them greatly. I do have to find time in the day to recharge as I can become overwhelmed if several hours go by and I have had to talk and listen more than is usually comfortable. To help the patients the most we first have to listen and not judge. That is where an introvert has an advantage over the extrovert. In finding balance, you will need time alone. Be sure to fit that into your schedule and unload the exhausting stress before you get home to your family. Your family needs you more than your patients. Keep plugin’ away.

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