So You Want to Become a Psychiatrist...

Working as a physician requires a certain amount of drive and determination. Not only are you required to complete several years of formal education and hands-on training, but you must also work with fervor to diagnose and treat patients.

Psychiatrists are no exception and certainly do require a great deal of determination, but they should exhibit other characteristics, too.

Before you embark on your journey toward becoming a psychiatrist, you may want to assess your own personality to make sure a career in this field of medicine is right for you.

Skills and Characteristics of Psychiatrists

Psychiatrists should ideally possess the following skills and characteristics:

Listening - A good portion of a psychiatrist's day-to-day activities includes listening to patients. Whether a patient is expressing sorrow, elation, confusion, paranoia, or any other symptoms, it will be your job to interpret what he or she is saying so you can form an accurate diagnosis and prescribe the necessary medications.

Communication - The ability to communicate with your patients is equally as important as your ability to listen. You'll need to clearly and thoroughly explain your patients' diagnoses and provide easy-to-follow instructions regarding medications and other treatments. You'll likely also need to regularly communicate with pharmacists and other physicians.

Patience - Your patients won't always freely share their feelings or describe their symptoms. This can prove incredibly frustrating, especially if you need more information to diagnose and help a patient. Keeping your cool in situations like these is incredibly important. After all, your ultimate goal is to gain the confidence of your patient so he or she feels comfortable enough to describe their symptoms and express their feelings.

Attention to detail - Your job will often involve assessing a patient's mood and comparing it to his or her disposition at a previous visit. Sometimes even the slightest changes can indicate whether a medication is working properly. For this reason, you'll need to take very detailed notes so you can adequately track a patient's progress.

Thoroughness - Diagnosing certain mental disorders can prove challenging, time consuming, and frustrating. Many illnesses share near-identical symptoms, which can necessitate an incredibly thorough evaluation using a fine-toothed comb.

As difficult as it may be, you'll sometimes need to put yourself in your patients' shoes.

Empathy - As difficult as it may be, you'll sometimes need to put yourself in your patients' shoes. Understanding their struggles and frustrations can provide the motivation you'll need to put a little more work into diagnosing and treating your patients so they can receive the help they need.

Honesty - Telling a patient they have a certain mental disorder can be difficult. While you don't want to dance around the truth, you don't want to be too blunt, either. It may take some practice, but you'll eventually need to perfect the art of being delicately honest with your patients and their loved ones.

Keep in mind that these are just a few of the traits you'll need to possess as a psychiatrist. If you want to learn more about the characteristics needed for a career in psychiatry, consider consulting with a guidance counselor or psychiatrist.

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