Two nationally representative surveys conducted in Australia reveal that doctors may be more neurotic than both patients and the general population. The surveys also compared the “Big Five” personality traits of doctors with those of patients and the general population. It was found that doctors were significantly more agreeable, conscientious, and extroverted than both the general population and patients. However, they were significantly less “open” than patients only. The study found that physicians had a significantly more external locus of control than the general population, but they did not differ from patients.
Implications for Medical Practice
The higher levels of neuroticism and external locus of control among doctors may be due to the demanding and stressful nature of their jobs. However, the authors suggest that these findings can help doctors understand factors that influence their patient interactions and better calibrate their judgments of patients. For example, due to their greater perceived conscientiousness, doctors may overestimate their patients’ ability to adhere to treatment plans, hence may not spend enough time detailing the importance of adhering closely to the plan. Doctors’ higher neuroticism could also lead them to see stress as a normal part of life and underestimate its impact on patient wellbeing.
The study authors recommend further research on how neuroticism among doctors affects medical practice. The findings of this study could help physicians become more prepared for treating certain patients, especially those individuals who differ in personality traits notably from themselves. It is important for doctors to recognize and understand their personality differences to provide better care to their patients.
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