Intended for healthcare professionals


Perfectionism in doctors

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 16 March 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1674
  1. Mike Peters, head 1,
  2. Jenny King, chartered psychologist and director2
  1. 1BMA Doctors for Doctors Unit, BMA House, London, WC1H 9JP, UK
  2. 2Edgecumbe Consulting Group, Bristol, UK
  1. mpeters{at}

Can lead to unhealthy behaviours in stressful work situations

The launch of the UK Association for Physician Health (UKAPH) has brought together a group of doctors and other health professionals concerned with the care of doctors. Perfectionism is a common trait among doctors.1 2 3 This is a good thing for patients and for healthcare organisations, but it can also leave doctors vulnerable to health problems and other difficulties.

People who are perfectionists strive for flawlessness, set excessively high standards of performance, and tend to be overly critical of their behaviour.4 5 Perfectionism can have some important benefits—not least, attention to detail, a deep sense of responsibility, and maintenance of high standards. It could be asked, “Would patients want anything less?” There is continuing debate about whether perfectionism is “good” or “healthy,” with the understandable view from the medical profession and the public that perfectionism is an essential driver of high quality patient care. But herein lies the rub: current pressures to do more, faster, and with fewer resources all militate against …

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