Medical careers

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Who is most likely to succeed?

A systematic review of the literature suggests extraversion and conscientiousness are an advantage in medicine:

Within medicine, extraversion predicted success in paediatric objective examinations (0.51). A recent study using the Big 5 has shown that conscientiousness is a positive predictor of preclinical achievement (standardised regression coefficient, =0.58), even with control for previous academic performance (A level grades).

The benefit of conscientiousness is widely replicated (although the benefit of extraversion less so). See e.g. Ferguson E et al. Pilot study of the roles of personality, references, and personal statements in relation to performance over the five years of a medical degree BMJ 2003;326:429

Higher scores on conscientiousness were significantly related to better performance across most (78%) of the assessments. Students scoring higher on agreeableness performed better on 33% of the assessments. Those scoring higher on emotional stability or lower on surgency [extraversion] performed better on 17% of the assessments.

Lievens F et al. Medical students' personality characteristics and academic performance: a five-factor model perspective. Medical Education, 2002 36: 1050–1056 (Paywalled):

Medical studies falls into the group of majors where students score highest on extraversion and agreeableness. Conscientiousness(i.e. self-achievement and self-discipline) significantly predicts final scores in each pre-clinical year. Medical students who score low on conscientiousness and high on gregariousness and excitement-seeking are significantly less likely to sit examinations successfully.

McManus IC, Keeling A, Paice E. Stress, burnout and doctors' attitudes to work are determined by personality and learning style: A twelve year longitudinal study of UK medical graduates. BMC Medicine 2004, 2:29 Regress working style and satisfaction against personality traits, and find that conscientiousness, emotional stability, extraversion and agreeableness help, and there is some support that openness to experience might too.

The surface-disordered approach to work is associated with high neuroticism and low conscientiousness, the PRHO [first year doctor] correlations also being highly significant in each case. Neuroticism, both in 2002 [medical students] and as a PRHO, is also associated with a perceived high workload (although in contrast to its prediction of a surface-disordered approach, conscientiousness is not a significant correlate of workload). The deep approach to work and learning is associated with being extravert and with greater openness to experience, and again the measures taken six years earlier are predictive. Finally a supportive-receptive work climate is associated with greater reported agreeableness, both in 2002 and six years earlier as a PRHO.

Doctors who are most stressed showed higher levels of neuroticism, both currently and previously, and those reporting most emotional exhaustion also had higher neuroticism levels, as well as being more introvert. High levels of depersonalisation related to lower levels of agreeableness. A greater sense of personal accomplishment related to previous deep approaches to study and learning, as well as to being more extravert. Overall satisfaction with medicine as a career related to lower levels of neuroticism.