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Does Ego Make Doctors Better or Worse?

Posted by Lawrence Kerr on Mon, Feb 20, 2017 @ 06:33 AM

ego.jpgAs a specialist surgeon, the stereotype is that we have big egos.

The caricature of a surgeon is that we drive up to the hospital in a late model BMW (now Tesla?), running late but without a call to the OR, perform the surgery like a prima donna, and without pre- or post-operative care, float away to other "fancy" work, leaving the rest of the team to clean up the pieces.

It's behavior that typifies a "big ego job" as defined in this article. But do surgeons -- or healthcare providers in general -- have big egos? It's fascinating to note that the biggest ego jobs are found to be cooks, chief executives, and art directors, with medical doctors not even ranking in the top ten. Our culture so often thinks of doctors as having big egos, when really most healthcare providers are all too aware of their own shortcomings.

So what's the truth? Well, I think that surgeons do tend to have a lot of confidence -- enough to slice into people on a daily basis, trusting we'll do less damage than good. And we do tend to associate our self worth with our ability as professionals, which creates a kind of drive to improve that is often associated with big egos. 

But I don't think that having a lot of confidence in your own abilities translates necessarily to the "lone wolf", interventionist, hyper-non-holistic caricature I just described. It doesn't translate into having a big ego in the negative sense.

In fact, I see the best medical collaboration happening among medical providers that take a lot of pride and confidence in their own abilities.

BUT -- they know that they can provide the best care when they work together with other extraordinary medical providers.

My greatest professional satisfaction has always been collaborating with the best in the business. There is a thrill to sitting at a table with a social worker, nurse, speech pathologist, and oral surgeon and mapping out the best conceivable care for a 3-month-old with a cleft palate. And every time one of our colleagues uses iClickCare to request a consult on a case, they get that satisfaction of connecting with an excellent colleague, the knowledge of providing the best care for the patient, and all without picking up a phone or scheduling anything.

So does a big ego make you a better or worse healthcare provider? I think the answer is that it makes you a better healthcare provider -- as long as you look at the whole picture.

"None of us is as smart as all of us," is attributed to Einstein. Each provider has a different perspective, experience, and expertise. Each is going to care for the patient in a different way. So medical collaboration isn't optional if we want to be the best in our field -- it is the only way.

ClickCare Quick Guide to Medical Collaboration

Tags: telemedicine, medical collaboration, healthcare collaboration

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