Can a personality test make you a better doctor?

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Back in medical school, in a freshman retreat, our entire class took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) psychometric test, which is supposed to help us learn which area of ​​medicine might be best suited for. our unique combination of features.

It was my first time doing an official personality assessment, and it felt like something closer to a Cosmos quiz as a valid tool for career guidance. Since then, I have gained a greater appreciation for the value of assessments to help me better understand not only myself, but also my colleagues, staff, patients and systems. As I became more aware of myself, I saw unexpected benefits in my personal life and career.

It turns out that my medical school was part of a growing movement to use such tests in healthcare. In fact, during the 20th century, there was a great deal of data showing the usefulness of personality assessment in a variety of contexts. But the conceptualization of unique personality traits dates back to 460 BC, when Hippocrates theorized that humans had a “persona” related to four “moods”: angry (yellow bile), melancholy (black bile), sanguine (red blood). , and phlegmatic (white phlegm).

Galen took this concept further to publish a complete typology of temperament. These early attempts paved the way for the formal science of psychology in the late 1800s and the use of formal psychological tests to address individual personality styles.

Today, personality tests are used to predict which health care intervention might be most effective for an individual patient; organizations assessing the fit between a role and a candidate; to, as in my experience, medical educators aimed at improving awareness of self and others, assisting in the selection of specialties, predicting student performance. and reduce evaluation bias.

As a first year medical student, I did not find the MBTI particularly useful; At this point in my training, I was more hungry for medical facts than for understanding myself. I recently encountered these results while cleaning a drawer, which made me reflect on the unintended experiences I have had since then, and how the ideas have converted me to the point where I now actively recommend them. feedback to my family, friends, patients and students.

For example, I discovered a way to tailor my approach to patients using the Four Trends quiz, developed by Gretchen Rubin. The quiz explores how we meet expectations – both of ourselves and of others. From there, we are divided into four groups: the Partisans, the Helpers, the Questioners and the Rebels.

The author postulates that knowing our “trend” helps us personally understand how to achieve our own goals, and as physicians, it can help us work more effectively with our patients. Is your patient a questioner, responding well to tons of data; an obligator, who will do well with follow-up and accountability; a rebel, who resists being told what to do; or the simplest of customers, an advocate, who will faithfully follow your suggestions?

I also found some tests useful at the team level. Our clinical team was going through a difficult time, with staff turnover and low morale. A team member who is a certified trainer suggested that we all take the 16 personality assessment.

This construct has five personality aspects (mind, energy, nature, tactics, and identity) which, when combined, classify us into one of 16 personality types. After the team did their self-assessments, we posted them on a bulletin board in the dining room with brief descriptions of the types and where we all fell.

Parts of the team meetings were devoted to discussing what we found and how to use the information to better understand the people we work with every day. Overall, the process led to more intimate discussions and a greater appreciation for how we as individuals are in how we present ourselves for the team.

And, of course, testing helps with your own personal growth and relationship understanding. As part of a leadership program, I completed an enneagram type indicator and a formal debriefing with a coach, and found this so interesting that I asked my spouse to complete it as well. What I had previously dismissed as a glorified form of horoscope turned out to be a tool that helped my husband and I understand each other better.

For example, as an “observer” I need time to process before resolving a conflict, which has helped my husband, a “peacemaker”, understand that he needs to let me go. space. The concept of Enneagram building that we can be healthy / average / unhealthy versions of our type gives everyone the chance to know when we are in flux (what they call “integration” or “growth”) from a state where we decompensate you (“disintegration” or “stress”) and take action to reset you.

I have done other personality assessments over the years, and each time I have discovered another layer of understanding about myself and human nature in general.

As humans, we naturally tend to think that others will respond to what works for us. Recalling the uniqueness of individual makeup can enrich our relationships at home as partners and parents, and in the healthcare workplace as a colleague, boss, employee and caregiver.

Admittedly, these tests are not perfect. They give a glimpse of a part of someone’s personality without looking at the full picture, can be unreliable, and can be “played” by the user.

However, if you use these personality explorations and invest the time to reflect on the results, you can gain a better understanding of yourself, your patients, and your colleagues – and ultimately enrich your professional career and your personal life.

Melinda Ring, MD, is a physician in integrative medicine.

This message appeared on Kevin®.


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