Wednesday, 20 March 2013


It occurs to me that some of the stress I feel at work arises because I want to be liked. I start feeling uncomfortable if the patient seems indifferent or, worse, unhappy. I think I would do better if I aimed for cordial but efficient consultations, and wasn't scared of saying “no”. So I have a go at this today.

When I get home I am amused to find an article in The Times suggesting that psychopathic personality traits (“ruthlessness, fearlessness, coolness, charisma, charm and, of course, a lack of empathy”) may help you in life if you are intelligent and not violent. “In everyday life psychopaths tend to be assertive, don’t procrastinate, don’t take things personally, are cool under pressure, and don’t beat themselves up when things go wrong.” I am exactly the opposite.

I can't develop psychopathic personality traits of course, but I could perhaps change my behaviour a little. Things seemed to go alright today, and the world didn't collapse when I told a couple of people that what they wanted wasn't the right thing for them.


smudge said...

Hmm on the basis of the definition above, I work with a psychopath. I'm not sure it's a personality trait you really want though it's good that the world didn't collapse when you said no. For the record, I like it if my GP challenges my views. He is the expert & the one with the medical degree & years of experience, not me!!!

Keep up the great work doc, I bet you're a brilliant GP.

Anonymous said...

While it's difficult (impossible?) to develop particular personality traits, maybe it's possible to adopt behaviours which would protect us and our patients. A burnt-out doctor for example may resent his patients and his job for making him feel like this. I don't know of any GP training course which prepares young doctors for how to recognise, prevent and manage burnout. Burnout is regarded as a bit embarrassing or shameful.

Instead doctors (especially GPs) feel they are failing, not good enough and that it is all their fault. Initially they try to work harder and this may be effective for a while. The underlying problem gets worse and if unchecked causes the doctor to malfunction with dire results including suicide.

If you are a doctor rading this here is a burnout self-assessment scale on the website of the BMA

Welcome back Dr Brown!