Personality differences between internal medicine and surgical residents in an Asian population | BMC medical training
In this study, we compared the personality profiles of a sample of medical residents with a sample of NUHS surgical residents. The results suggest that there are fundamental differences between the two groups of residents. In agreement with previous studies [10,11,12,13], Our results showed that medical residents scored higher on agreeableness, with more agreeable people tending to be more cooperative, kind, and sympathetic rather than harsh or rude. These qualities are not surprising, given the intellectual rigors in the field of internal medicine, where open discussion and the sharing of ideas are integral to the success of a medical team. This contrasts with surgical residents, where individual and absolute decision-making skills are often critical to the success of a surgery, versus their ability to work well with others. Surgical residents, on the other hand, scored higher for “extroversion,” indicating a more enthusiastic, verbal, assertive person rather than withdrawn, reserved, or shy. In the extraversion facet, surgical residents exhibited greater assertiveness and excitement-seeking behavior. This is also a consistent finding in previous studies. [4, 12, 13]and can be explained by the more rapid and action-oriented nature of surgical work.
Having a deeper understanding of the personality difference between different groups of residents can be beneficial in several ways. First, medical students and junior doctors can take the same personality tests to better understand their own personalities, and then compare the results to current residents. This can help make a more informed decision when choosing specialties. They may find it more rewarding to be around like-minded colleagues and have a stronger support system among colleagues with similar personalities.
Second, understanding the personalities of successful residents can benefit younger residents. Periodic personality assessments may be conducted throughout a resident’s residency journey and such tests could help highlight traits that can potentially impair job performance. By doing so, he can afford to be more mindful and work on those traits. Additionally, mentors may be able to provide personalized advice on how to work on these traits to improve job performance. The success of this form of training has been seen in other sectors such as military pilots , whereby it has been shown that personalities can be changed and by doing so, the probability of a safe mission can be improved. In the similar study, there was also evidence to suggest that different types of training can benefit trainees of a certain personality.
It is believed that burnout and personality traits are closely linked [15, 16], these assessments can also help residency programs quickly identify residents at risk of burnout so that early intervention can be provided. Ultimately, this could help reduce the residency attrition rate, thereby minimizing the resulting social and economic impacts.
In the Singapore context, young doctors may choose to take these personality tests during their PGY1 year to better understand their own personality traits before they apply for residency. This does not need to be mandatory or part of a formal assessment for residency. With their newly acquired insight, they can then make better career decisions. By choosing the most appropriate residency, young physicians can be better positioned to use their innate strengths and perform better on the job. It can also increase job satisfaction and reduce burnout.
Our study did not take into account the motivation and success of a sample of medical residents and surgical residents. Therefore, the results of this study may not be representative of residents who ultimately succeed at the end of their training. Personalities are known to be affected by age, longitudinal studies in the general population have shown that people tend to become more pleasant, conscientious while being less neurotic, extroverted and open as they age personality traits may also evolve during residency . However, despite this limitation, our study was still able to report similar results between our study and other studies performed on board-certified physicians. [4, 12, 13]. Second, our study is also inherently limited by characteristic demand bias due to its self-report nature, differences may exist between self-report and external personality assessment and concerns of biasing responses have also previously been raised for studies involving personality testing. [19, 20]. Although the NEO-PI-R questionnaire has questions to mitigate this factor, specialized questionnaires such as the Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding (BIDR)  would have been more ideal. In our case, we decided not to use such toolkits to minimize responder fatigue. Third, our study is a cross-sectional study conducted at a single institution. Therefore, the results may not apply generally to all settings and at different times in a physician’s career, further prospective studies with larger numbers are needed to confirm the associations found in our study. . Longitudinal studies investigating not only the differences between the personalities of surgical and medical residents, but also how they change during their residency will also be very beneficial; however, such studies are still lacking in the current literature.