Empathy, Integrity and Career Growth: 30 Expert Tips for New Physicians

Top tips for new doctors – from someone who's been there.

Top tips for new doctors
Top tips for new doctors

If you’ve just become a doctor and are learning the ropes of doing your best in the noble and extremely demanding profession in healthcare, you must know that every new physician goes through the same challenges that you may be facing presently.

Doctors with decades of experience who are revered for their dedication to patient care have the following advice for healthcare professionals new to this field. Here are 30 tips compiled from sage advice from physicians who have gone through the grind and emerged stronger and more resolute to provide exceptional patient care.

5 tips to be empathetic with patients even when you’re having a bad day

Empathy has been described as one of the topmost qualities of good physicians, a trait that sets them apart from the rest and helps them establish a unique connect with their patients. In fact, research has shown that empathy and a listening ear are sometimes more effective in patient treatment than technical skills.

If as a new doctor you’re struggling to keep an empathetic ear while trying to cope with the pressures of a new job where soft skills are a necessity, you must know that many new and seasoned health care providers face similar issues. This soft skills can indeed be learned, and it needs continual and deliberate effort, as follows.

  1. First and foremost, always be prepared to listen to your patients—even on the days when you can barely keep your eyes open or have a personal problem nagging at the back of your head. Once you give your patient a thorough listening, the rest becomes a lot easier. Place yourself in their shoes and, once they have finished talking, repeat what they said so they know you are listening and have understood their problem.
  2. Confront your preconceived notions, beliefs and prejudices, so that you can give your patients the attention they deserve. You may not be prejudiced person in real life, but biases can subconsciously kick in when you meet people from different walks of life every day. Shun those biases and keep an open mind when dealing with patients and colleagues.
  3. Look your patient in the eye. Eye contact tells your patients that you are interested in their wellbeing. Interestingly, research shows that patients treated by physicians who make more eye contact have superior health, are more likely to follow the doctor’s advice and are more likely to return to the doctor. So, look at the patient directly instead of looking at your computer—it builds patient-doctor trust.
  4. Support your patients by giving them undivided attention while they speak, and use this time to observe nonverbal clues about their wellbeing. Nonverbal clues provide important information that you can use to probe the patient further and provide them the help they need.
  5. Adopt a holistic and compassionate approach to patient care. Don’t look at symptoms in isolation—look at the larger picture, taking the patient’s mental and emotional health, personal circumstances and environment into consideration. Being empathetic is easy once you understand that a human being has placed their trust in you to help them heal.

10 tips to create complete and accurate clinical documentation

Clinical documentation is a crucial part of medical practice. Such documentation includes all information pertaining to a patient’s care while they are admitted or are visiting your facility. Proper records help doctors determine the health status of the patient and devise the right treatment plan and enable ongoing care.

Complete and accurate documentation is a prime responsibility of doctors. It reflects your commitment to high-quality care and shows that you recognize the importance of accurate treatment history for both the patient and your institution. Here are 10 tips to help you create proper patient records.

  1. Ensure to document the exact reason for patient visit or admission, including potential diagnosis. Remember to also record the level of each diagnosis (such as suspected, confirmed or eliminated).
  2. Make your documentation as thorough as possible. Note down secondary observations that could help in second diagnoses and devise the right treatment modality.
  3. Tomek Obirek from Dragon Medical says that digital documentation is much more efficient than hand-typed documents as it reduces the risk of human error. Switch to digital medical documentation if you can, as it saves both time and money.
  4. Explore digital documentation that integrates with your EMR, as it will allow you to serve more patients, cut transcription costs, and improve the quality and accuracy of your documentation.
  5. As long as a diagnosis has not been ruled out, make sure to follow through till it is either confirmed or eliminated for good. Every correct observation you make reflects on your performance.
  6. Document all labs and radiology test reports and their significance for diagnosis and treatment.
  7. Document compliance with SOPs and quality measures. Do not assume that it will be understood that procedures have been followed.
  8. Remember that you will need to prove the necessity of any treatment recommended or tests ordered. Bear in mind that in case of an audit, you will need to support each diagnosis mentioned on the patient’s chart.
  9. Do not overstate or understate facts. Making exaggerating comments in the diagnosis reflects poorly on your credibility and could even land you in trouble with the law.
  10. Poor documentation has been directly linked to low performance ratings. Even if you have provided exceptional care, not documenting it properly will take away the credit from your work.

15 tips to stay motivated and fuel your career growth

While you attend to your patient’s needs and learn to cope with being in the healthcare industry, you must also work on your professional growth and set goals for your professional success. Experienced doctors vouch for the following tips to enhance your self-confidence and self-motivation as a new physician and carve out a successful and satisfying career path.

  1. Never neglect your family for work. You or they may not find it problematic now, but it will disturb your personal peace and familial harmony in the long term, affecting your work and performance.
  2. Remember to take a vacation at least twice a year. Going away even for a couple of days is extremely important to refresh your mind and recharge your energies. When you’re in a profession of serving people, you need to take care of your own mental and physical wellbeing.
  3. Watch out for signs of burnout and take a break when things get too much. You can’t function at your optimum best when you’re exhausted, and treating patients needs complete attention.
  4. Be ambitious, but don’t fall for traps that are often offered to young and aspiring physicians. Working long or extra hours, skipping vacations for incentives, doing extra shifts when you know it will do you more harm than good—these should be avoided. The thinner you stretch yourself, the less joy you’ll feel in your job.
  5. Learn to say no and assert yourself when you know you’re right. Don’t try and please others to be in their good books. The best professional rewards in medicine come from great work.
  6. Be flexible early in your career—it will earn you the authority to make choices later as you come to be known as an experienced and well-respected doctor.
  7. Watch your productivity. Avoid distractions and keep your focus on doing a good job with each patient you encounter.
  8. Ensure that your projects and research are on the same lines as your clinical work. This is a great way to bring more value to your clinical experience. Find time to be involved in projects and audits. You’ll get the dual satisfaction of having made a difference in patient care and earned credits for your CV.
  9. Don’t get bogged down by mistakes. What’s important is to acknowledge that you erred, learn from the mistake and resolve to never let it happen again.
  10. Seek feedback from those who are more experienced or more knowledgeable than you. Be open to ideas and opinions even if they are contradictory to your own way of thinking and working. Medical practice is a field where you must constantly adapt and learn.
  11. Develop healthy relationships at work. Make friends with colleagues and be polite with those you don’t like. In an environment where you’re constantly dealing with patients and their families worried for their loved ones, coworkers are a much needed support system.
  12. Keep your patient’s wellbeing as you utmost priority so that other issues won’t come in the way of seeking help when you need it.
  13. Make a mark for yourself in your field by publishing papers, speaking at events, writing blogs and gaining membership in national institutions and committees. Do activities that will advance your career and place you as a dedicated professional amongst your peers.
  14. Make sure to regularly meet with your direct report. If you’re doing great work, your seniors should know about it. Keep conversations crisp and formal.
  15. Remember that no one expects you to be an experienced consultant. Do the best to your knowledge and experience and, again, seek your seniors’ advice when in doubt.
I'm NOT a doctor! I'm just passionate about health and healthy leaving. The information on this website, such as graphics, images, text and all other materials, is provided for reference and educational purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. The content is not intended to be complete or exhaustive or to apply to any specific individual's medical condition.