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5 Soft Skills Every Pre-Med Student Needs

Last Updated on June 26, 2022 by Laura Turner

Though the emphasis of the medical school application process lies on academic achievement, there are a number of personal qualities that pre-medical students should strive to develop if they wish to become superior physicians. The development of these soft skills may also make students more competitive medical school applicants when they are evident in interviews and letters of recommendation. Such soft skills include:
1. The ability to work effectively in a team
Modern medicine requires immense coordination between various clinicians and providers. Doctors must collaborate with nurses, social workers, specialists, therapists, and others in order to adequately care for their patients in today’s complex medical and social climate. The ability to lead and to collaborate with team members is a necessity for today’s medical trainees. Pre-medical students can develop this skill while working in a team setting in their college coursework (e.g. group projects and presentations), extracurricular activities (e.g. student government and student interest groups), and other major experiences (e.g. philanthropic organizations and research laboratories). Students should actively strive to lead, but they should also work to see the perspectives of all team members, and to incorporate effective strategies to help their team meet common goals.
2. The ability to communicate via multiple modes of media
Medicine today also requires physicians to engage with their patients and the healthcare team via various communication avenues. This may include electronic medical record notes, email, social media, and, most important of all, in person. Pre-medical students should become adept at efficiently and clearly communicating verbally and in writing to prepare them for this essential component of current medical practice.
3. The ability to act with compassion and empathy
Patients in today’s exceedingly complicated healthcare system seek doctors who understand their needs and who advocate for them. This requires physicians to possess a great deal of compassion and empathy. Doctors must be able to view the world from their patients’ perspectives in order to adequately diagnose, treat, and manage illnesses. Pre-medical students should nurture these qualities in themselves as they progress through college.
4. The ability to accept constructive criticism and feedback
The medical training process involves multiple stages of increasing responsibility. Along the way, students must continuously seek and implement feedback from their superiors. Given how high-achieving doctors tend to be, it should come as little surprise that most trainees initially struggle to accept criticisms. Pre-medical students should work to proactively gather feedback on their performance from their professors, teaching assistants, tutors, and peers while completing college coursework and engaging in student activities. Students should also develop ways to continuously improve in response to this feedback. This mindset will serve students well as they complete their various phases of medical training, and it may just distinguish them from their peers.
5. The ability to prioritize tasks and complete them efficiently
There are many demands on a physician’s time. Doctors must balance multiple competing priorities, including seeing patients, completing documentation, following up on test results, developing therapeutic plans, coordinating care among many providers, educating current trainees, engaging in research, participating in community leadership, and honoring personal obligations. In order to complete all of these tasks, physicians must know how to work efficiently and how to prioritize responsibilities. Pre-medical students should develop their time management skills and their ability to focus in order to succeed as medical students, house officers, and attending physicians.

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