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Feature Christmas 2014: Media Studies

Doctors: caring extroverts or self deluded chocoholics?

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 18 December 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g7623
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. 1London

Nigel Hawkes reveals what we have learnt about doctors from the first 50 BMJ Confidential columns

Those who rise to the top in medicine see themselves as hardworking extroverts with a caring nature, suggests an unscientific analysis of the answers given by contributors to BMJ Confidential. But then, don’t we all?

Asked for three words to define their personality, the first 50 respondents to The BMJ’s weekly quiz came up with a wide choice of adjectives. The English language is rich in synonyms, so the same words rarely recurred—but different words can mean much the same thing. How many ways are there of saying that you work hard? Plenty, it would seem: competitive, committed, conscientious, determined, driven, exacting, hardworking, obsessional, perfectionist, persevering, persistent, relentless, and tenacious all made appearances.

Nearly half (22 of 50) chose one of those. Throw in “passionate” (chosen by six), and the total comes to over half. Equally popular were words that suggested a sunny personality: extrovert, outgoing, optimistic, warm, positive, adventurous, cheerful, enthusiastic, energetic, and lively accounted for 23 responses. The third most common group was the “caring” adjectives: although only one contributor actually used that word, the total was nine when its near synonyms—compassionate, considerate, kind, generous, sensitive, and charming—were included.

People invited to contribute to BMJ Confidential have all made a name for themselves in some branch of medicine or medical management, so it is no surprise that only one claimed to be shy. But four others used the words introspective, diffident, and cautious, which are not very different. Four thought that they were difficult, bossy, impatient, or impossible, and five feared that their tongues might sometimes run away with them (feisty, outspoken, opinionated, loquacious).

Just one claimed to be a visionary. It was a man, of course, and he …

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