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Soft skills for doctors

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

Did you know all the best doctors share a common quality? Let’s talk about soft skills…



As a doctor, a laser-light focus on the technical (“hard”) skills are honed through decades of education and study. However, the multi-faceted nature of a clinician's day-to-day requires both a high level of skilled knowledge and a good rapport with patients. The use of soft skills, therefore, is essential to better serve patients and build stronger relationships.



Key soft skills for clinicians:

Stress management

There is no getting away from the fact that being a doctor goes hand in hand with a high amount of pressure. You are dealing with people's lives on a daily basis, along with providing emotional support and leading a team. Having a stress management strategy is not only important to avoid burnout but necessary. Taking care of your own health first is often a foreign concept to most doctors, but in doing so you will be able to focus even more on delivering high-quality patient care.


Top tips for stress management:
  1. Focus on small well-being habits- Small daily habits effortlessly enhance your health while protecting you from burnout- perfect for universally time-starved doctors! Examples include: walking to work and bringing in your own lunch.

  2. Optimise productivity- A key management tool for preventing stress is enhancing your productivity. Check out our blog post on the three small habits of ultra-productive doctors.

  3. Prioritise your brain health- As humans, we need to take better care of our own mental hygiene. Just like we work out our body, our brain needs stress relief too. Research has demonstrated that mindfulness is one of the easiest ways to achieve this- headspace is a great place to get started and is free for all NHS workers!



Leadership & Teamwork

It is advantageous for all GPs to demonstrate leadership and management CPD on a yearly basis. This has been advised by the GMC because of how fundamental leadership is within a clinician's role. As senior staff members, it is important to provide motivation, support and an unbiased foundation for discussions and feedback within the team.


Key leadership and teamwork top tips:
  1. Help others where appropriate

  2. Celebrate team member’s successes

  3. Maintain a positive attitude

  4. Participate in projects wherever possible

  5. Check-in on other team members

  6. Always maintain a polite and professional manner


Communication

Clear and conscious communication is the fundamental soft skill required for all clinicians. Patients and families need to understand their diagnosis and steps for treatment, having the ability to communicate this information in a bite-sized and empathetic manner is key.


Top tips for enhanced communication:
  1. Maintain a polite and professional tone- Emotional intelligence is key especially if there is conflict or a difficult conversation.

  2. Be mindful of your body language- This can hold true for both your patients and other team members. Maintaining an approachable and relaxed body language is paramount.

  3. Maintain eye contact- This is a universal form of respect and allows patients to feel like they have your undivided attention.

  4. Be a good listener- A key aspect of communication is listening to understand and not listening to respond. When patients feel heard, they feel a sense of trust and a stronger bond with their clinician.

  5. Learn from experienced clinicians- Here at Hippocratix, we have 100+ video examples of patient-clinician consultations from two actively practising experienced GPs. Hippocratix is a trusted resource for thousands of GPs looking to better enhance their consultation skills.



Empathy

Emotional intelligence is a critical soft skill for doctors. The validation of a patient's concerns can earn both trust and the development of long-term relationships. In fact, research has shown that empathy and compassion have been linked to better adherence to treatment plans and increased patient satisfaction.


Top tips to enhance empathy:
  1. Express empathy to the patient

  2. Make eye contact

  3. Be curious about the patient

  4. Record details that humanize your patient in their notes

  5. Show support to your patients



Feedback

Healthcare is a constantly evolving area, gaps in knowledge due to changes in medicine, procedures and technology are part and parcel of the vocation. Having the self-awareness to be able to demonstrate a receptive attitude while handling feedback and change is key. Maintaining an air of transparency and constructive criticism related to an opportunity to improve is vital.


Top tips for improving feedback skills:
  1. Be open to constructive feedback

  2. Be curious and ask questions

  3. Analysis patterns that you may have formed

  4. Develop an improvement strategy




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