With the health sector in Africa needing constant improvement; and several families losing loved ones to medical negligence, it has become important to examine the characteristics of a great doctor.


First, it is public knowledge that many doctors worth their salt are fleeing Africa for favourable working conditions abroad. Second, potential patients need to know the qualities of a great doctor, so that they can demand better; hopefully, this will improve the quality of service in our hospitals.

Check out these 7 key characteristics of a great doctor



Perhaps, more than any other quality, you want to know that your doctor knows what he’s doing. Whether he’s dispensing treatment or dispensing advice, a great doctor should have and inspireconfidence. Your doctor’s manner and actions must reassure you that someone qualified is in the driver’s seat. This is a very reasonable request as you’re dealing with your health.


A great doctor is someone who validates your pain, listens to your problem and treats you with professional courtesy. There’s no doubt that you would value a doctor who tries to understand what you are feeling and experiencing; physically and emotionally, and communicates that understanding to you.



This goes way beyond being book-smart and cramming medical text; your doctor should be talented at what he does. A great doctor uses evidence, method, and intuition; as well as other subjective and objective items in their toolkit to provide the fastest, most effective treatment possible.


Being a good listener is key to being a good doctor. Because patients will tell you what’s wrong if you listen to them speak, and a good doctor knows this. His good communication skills also mean he is friendly with patients. It’s also a vital skill for doctors to understand your concerns and explain a diagnosis.


Good doctors give their patients the time they need and deserve. They answer questions using language that is clear, without using too much medical terminology. They are honest, but also offer hope, even when a situation is difficult. And they help their patients feel empowered to improve their own health.

Additional tips that explain the features of a good doctor

Honest and forthright

Even if you are a patient who is more than a little squeamish about bad news, you will want your doctor to bite the bullet and just tell you the news in plain language. You will want your doctor to just rip the band-aid off; whether or not you yourself are willing to. If you’re such a patient, you also would be more forgiving of a doctor who made a mistake but at least admitted it straight away. A good doctor knows to be honest in his dealings with you.


Organization skills

A doctor can’t succeed in medicine without presence of mind and being vigilant about details. A good doctor makes sure that his patients get recommended screening tests; that their questions are answered, and that they have a clear line of action upon leaving his office. He must be vigilant about following up on any tests that are done and communicating those results.

Patient Advocacy

Good doctors do whatever it may take to help their patients with their health care needs, no matter what they are. Whether that means helping you navigate the health care system by finding specialists or getting the prescriptions you need; they should be willing to provide that support. A good doctor is a strong advocate for his patients. The best doctors are willing to go the extra mile for their patients’ well-being.


Now that we know the characteristics of a great doctor, let’s also check out what a good doctor is not. See the list below

A good doctor is not:

  • Indifferent or uncaring

Warning signs of a bad attitude include being consistently cold, rude, or dismissive of your concerns. Good doctors are warm, interested, and engaged and will take the time to make you feel comfortable. Also: beware of fancy degrees, offices, or advertising campaigns—they can sometimes camouflage a bad attitude.

  • Prone to repeated errors

Everyone makes mistakes now and then; but a pattern of sloppiness, communication problems, and errors suggests that something is going on behind the scenes. Small problems or mistakes, such as failure to return calls, ordering incorrect tests, or neglecting to update a patient’s records, may not initially seem like a big deal. But, a series of small careless errors boosts the likelihood that you could eventually end up dealing with the consequences of a serious, life-threatening mistake.

What are the qualities you would love your doctor to have?

This article was first published on AfricaParent.com

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