Surveys Show That Doctors Are Less Open and More Neurotic Than Patients

Personality information may have therapeutic effects on patient-doctor interactions.

Two nationally representative Australian studies suggest that doctors may exhibit higher levels of neuroticism than both patients and the general population.

As for the “Big Five” personality traits, Mehdi Ammi, PhD, health economist at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, and the University of Queensland in Australia, and coauthors, found that doctors were also significantly more agreeable, conscientious, and extroverted than the general population and patients.

But as the researchers noted in BMJ opens in a new tab or window, they were notably less “open” than patients alone.

Doctors Exhibit Higher Neuroticism and External Locus of Control

“The doctors were significantly more neurotic than the other groups, which is the most unexpected [result],” Ammi stated to Medic Mind Today. “They also believe that the results of their actions depend more on outside forces, which indicates that they have a somewhat more external locus of control. If nothing else, we would have anticipated them to be similar to us and less neurotic or dependent on outside control.”

“We can only speculate about this, but we suspect this might be coming from their jobs being more demanding and stressful than the other groups,” Ammi stated in her email.

In principle, a patient’s happiness with their care should rise when their physician is conscientious and pleasant. Still, the study’s authors proposed that physicians may benefit from the results by being able to “better calibrate their judgements of patients and gain insight into factors that influence their patient interactions.”

For instance, “physicians may overestimate their patients’ capacity to follow treatment programs; as a result, they could not devote enough time to emphasizing how important it is to follow the plan precisely”, according to Ammi since their higher perceived conscientiousness.

How Doctors’ Traits Affect Their Perceptions of Patients

According to him, patients may be perceived as less compassionate and understanding by doctors since they are generally more amiable. “Physicians may be able to modify their expectations of patients’ agreeableness if they are aware that they are a self-selected group of people who are more amiable.” These points are well-explained while doctors were engaged in medicine interview preparation in the past.

The researchers noted that doctors’ higher neuroticism, which is linked to stress, “may lead doctors to see stress as a normal part of life, and, thus, underestimate the impact of stress on patient wellbeing.” Therefore, it is dangerous for doctors to fail to recognize and understand their personality differences.

The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey and Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL), two nationally representative Australian surveys, provided the data that the researchers utilized to calculate these ratings. In both surveys, participants were asked to rate their own personality qualities.

HILDA includes information on 18,705 patients and 25,358 members of the general public aged 20-85. 19,351 physicians’ data are included in MABEL.

Personality, Control, and Implications for Treatment – Mapping Personalities and Beliefs

Conscientiousness, agreeableness, extroversion, neuroticism, and openness are the “Big Five” personality qualities that Ammi and her coauthors have chosen to emphasizes. They described being warm, cooperative, friendly, and empathic as being agreeable. Their definition of a neurotic included traits like jealousy, moodiness, touchiness, temperament, and worry. Being extroverted was defined as being chatty, brash, loud, and energetic, whereas being conscientious was defined as being ordered, methodical, efficient, meticulous, and organized.

Additionally, they evaluated people’s views of personal agency, or the distribution of control between internal (like self-action) and external (like chance) factors. Physicians did not vary from patients in the research, although they did have a considerably greater external locus of control than the general community.

No discernible personality variations were seen between the specializations of physicians.

According to Ammi, the results of his group’s research should better equip doctors to treat specific patients, particularly those whose personality characteristics are markedly different from their own.

“Future research should focus on neuroticism among doctors in comparison to other population groups and the role it plays in medical practice,” the authors said.

Medical Residents in California Who Are Unable to Find Abortion Training Have a Lifeline

Black Georgian Bria Peacock, MD, decided to pursue a profession in medicine after realising how badly her community needed access to healthcare, particularly for abortions.

Her elder sister, who became a mother when she was a teenager, faced prejudice and criticism, which early on inspired her to pursue a career in maternal healthcare. When the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade in 2022, Peacock was already in her residency program in California, and her thoughts drifted back to women like her sister.

“I was aware that the people there, my people and my community, would be drastically impacted due to their Black identity and Southern location,” she told.

Peacock attended the Medical College of Georgia, but she is currently completing her residency in obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), where she has received extensive training in the provision of abortion care.

“As a trainee, I was aware that I need that,” Peacock said. Following her residency, she intends to go back to her own state.

Medical Residents Gain Easier Access to Crucial Abortion Training

Following the Supreme Court ruling, California has made an effort to become a safe haven for residents of states with restrictive abortion laws. By doing this, it joins 14 other states, such as Massachusetts, Colorado, and New Mexico.  The sensitive topic of abortion education for medical residents is now being discussed, since most physicians feel that it is essential to provide thorough ob-gyn training.

A law approved in September opens in a new tab or window makes it simpler for out-of-state learners to obtain up to 90 days of in-person training under the supervision of a California-licensed doctor. The bill allowed training at organizations like Planned Parenthood that are connected to recognized medical institutions and also removed the need for a training license.

“By enabling medical residents to come to California, where there are more chances for abortion training, and by allowing them to be paid for this work, we’re sending a message that abortion care is healthcare and an important component of physician training,” stated Lisa Folberg, CEO of the California Academy of Family Physicians, which supported the bill.

Fear & Restrictions Hamper Residents’ Abortion Training Choices

As the impact of abortion prohibitions on medical education become increasingly apparent, the issue of how to offer comprehensive ob-gyn training is expected to become more pressing: According to the Ryan Residency Training Medic Mind in a new tab or window in Abortion and Family Planning, 18 states limit or outlaw abortion to the degree where it essentially denies 20% of ob-gyn medical residents the chance to receive abortion training. Out of the 5,962 ob-gyn residents countrywide, that equates to 1,354 residents this year.

In certain instances, the limitations are intended to extend across state lines, alarming residents and medical students who worry about backlash from right-wing lawmakers and anti-abortion organizations.

One ob-gyn living in a state with abortion restrictions, who wished to remain anonymous out of concern for retaliation, stated she would like to receive thorough training in abortion care in California but is unable to do so.

“Under my program, we won’t be allowed to conduct abortions in other states,” she said.

Administrators are concerned that because the program is state-funded, doing so may expose residents to legal action, according to her.

“That is the legal interpretation made by my software,” she stated. “They are taking extreme precautions to keep us safe.”

Scholarship Repayment Law Chills Abortion Training, Doctors Warn

Pamela Merritt, executive director of Medical Students in a new tab or window, drew attention to a Kansas law requiring residents who perform abortions or work in clinics that perform them to repay state medical school scholarships, plus 15% interest, unless there is an emergency involving rape, incest, or other serious medical conditions.

Physicians remind out that abortion education encompasses more than merely terminating pregnancies. Peacock remembered a patient who, not long after a successful birth, began to haemorrhage heavily. Peacock and her colleagues at UCSF carried out a dilation and curettage, which is a standard method of ending a pregnancy.

” It may have been fatal if the patient had kept bleeding and we had not had that skill set,” said Peacock, chief ob-gyn UCSF resident.

As demand increases, it’s unclear how many slots in California will be available to train medical residents from other states. “Many sites are unable to expand opportunities to others because they were already at their training maximums,” stated Michael Belmonte, MD, an American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists fellow.

From June 2022opens in a new window or tab, when Roe was invalidated, and the end of June 2023, 125 overseas doctors performed residencies in operations that employ the Ryan Residency Training Medic Mind in a new window or tab model, claims Kristin Simonson, director of operations. Ryan assists ob-gyn residency programs in including thorough instruction on abortion care.

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