Being A Doctor and An Introvert: Survival Tips

Collaborative post – may contain affiliate links

Life as a doctor can be incredibly rewarding. When you have the chance to make a tangible difference to someone’s life, give them good news, it can make all the years of study, debt, and stress feel 100 percent worth it. It’s those moments when everything goes right that makes doctoring feel worth it… unless you’re an introvert.

Introversion is fairly common; many of us struggle to engage with other people. This doesn’t stem from dislike, but more from nervousness; introverts don’t have the gregarious nature of extroverts. Interacting with other people can be stressful, which is why being an introvert and a doctor can be particularly troubling– you have to talk to people, but struggle as it doesn’t come naturally to you. You can still be a great doctor when you’re an introvert, but it is more difficult to connect with your patients in a meaningful way.

If you’re an introverted doctor, learning to power through the awkwardness and discomfort you feel is vital. Let’s investigate a few strategies you can use to make the process easier.

Confidence In Your Professionalism

Life as a doctor does not mean you have to always be there to hold your patient’s hand; few doctors have the time for this, meaning that interactions can be kept to a minimum. However, this also means you don’t have time to practice those patient/doctor interactions as frequently as you might need.

The next time you speak to a patient, give yourself confidence by being as professional as possible. Professionalism comes from all sorts of different areas; the way you speak, the tone of voice you use, and how you hold your posture. The way you look has an impact too; uniforms and scrubs can help you feel more authoritative. With all the right pieces in place, and with professionalism at the forefront of your mind, you can draw strength from these sources. You know what you’re talking about; you’re the expert; and you look and feel like it. Sometimes, you have to fake it, but that’s okay! Smile, look and feel as professional as possible, and eventually interactions will feel more natural.

Have A Set Goal For Every Conversation

When you’re an introvert, it can be tough to know why you’re engaging in conversation– and you get lost, feeling awkward. To help with this, you should have a set goal in mind every time you talk to a patient.

That goal could be broad — “I need to find out how this patient is doing at the moment” or more specific — “I need to persuade this patient to stop smoking”. Whatever the goal is, you can focus on keeping the conversation heading in a direction that can obtain your goal. This helps to prevent the conversation from devolving into small talk, which is something that introverts tend to struggle with.

End With A Thank You

Many introverts struggle to know how and when to end a conversation. There is a simple remedy for this: say thank you. A basic “well, thank you for your time” signifies to the patient that the conversation is over, and you can move on without having to worry you’ve appeared impolite.

If you can overcome your introversion, you will enjoy your work far more than before. Take your time, build your confidence, and keep your goal for the conversation in mind– and the rest should flow from there.

The Introverted Networker


There’s a belief out there that you have to be an extrovert in order to be an effective networker.

That’s a myth.

While it’s true that extroverts can be great at networking, introverts have their advantages too. Take for instance: listening skills. You and I love to connect with others, but the only way that’s possible is if there’s a discussion. That means someone is talking, while the other one is listening. If you’re talking all the time, you’ll notice people avoid you like the plague. Listen well and people will be drawn to talk to you.

Quality over quantity is a huge factor too. As an introvert, you may not be able to shake 50 hands during an hour meeting, but the 5 or less people you do meet you’ll probably remember how to follow-up with them. Consider using network events as a way to meet people, then grab coffee or schedule a phone call with them afterwards. Networking is a numbers game. Extroverts are better at meeting a lot of people at once. Introverts are better at getting to know a small amount of people at a time.

Only 7% of communication is done through words. The other 93% is shared between tone and body language. Introverts tend to be more intuitive so they pick up on non-verbal cues and intonation. Since interpreting communication requires observation and reading beneath what’s said, people feel valued when they are “heard” correctly. Knowing this, if you’re an introvert and have avoided networking up to this point because you didn’t feel like you’re “talkative” enough, stop making excuses.

It’s about who you know, not what you know, so if you’re not meeting new and maintaining old relationships, you’re getting behind!