The increasing prevalence of patient satisfaction surveys and patient choice are shining a spotlight on the importance of communication skills and personality. Simply stated, knowledge and expertise are not enough to be successful in the medical field anymore. In fact, interpersonal skills have become so important that many residency programs around the US have begun using objective measures of personality to evaluate residents in their selection process to identify the best match for their programs.
For students and residents, the focus during training tends to be on academic learning and practice; the behavioral aspect of patient care is often overlooked. Yet, prior to and during residency, doctors are increasingly evaluated according to their behaviors. For example, the ACGME milestones project outlines several core functions related to interpersonal communication and professionalism – which are largely driven by personality.
Personality is much more than how you see yourself – this is your identity. It also encompasses how others see you and how they interpret your interactions in the working environment – this is your reputation. Awareness of your reputation in a professional medical setting is a crucial component of success; it can affect a range of things: how patients interpret the information communicated to them, to your professional relationships with other colleagues.
So why should you care? First, personality assessments can increase self-awareness about parts of your personality that can affect your job, both in positive and negative ways. For example, understanding how you react to criticism and function under pressure can help you identify your strengths as well as your danger zones. Secondly, while “soft skills” are driven by personality, they can be developed overtime. Awareness of yourself can help you to identify areas for development.
One of the leading organizations offering validated personality instruments is J3Personica. The assessment process provides an objective analysis of personality. The suite of assessments consists of three sections that measure personality: motivators, drivers, and potential derailers when under stress. The goal of these assessments is to help identify which environments are going to be most satisfying for a resident, and in which he or she will have the most success. Additionally, resources are available to augment and guide professional training.
Despite being used extensively in the corporate world, personality assessments for residency selection is relatively new; however, one pilot study has exposed several personality traits that are typically sought after with traditional selection methods. It also sheds a light on what traits are overlooked. This research will, ideally, even the playing field by reducing subjective and non-predictive evaluations and serve to tease out which qualities translate into good program fit and long-term success.
In the short term, it’s important for residents to be aware at the interpersonal level to comply with development milestones such as those outlined by the ACGME. In the long term, and more importantly, awareness of your personality – including both the good and the bad – is essential for providing patients with the best care possible.
Allison P. Howell is an HR consultant based in Paris, France. Allison holds an M.S. in Mass Communications from the University of Wisconsin – Madison with a research focus on information processing and social psychology. She is also an adjunct professor at CELSA Paris-Sorbonne. Her research has been published in several academic and trade journals and she has managed multiple national and international projects in the U.S, Europe, Asia and Latin America.