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What do surgeons have in common? Their personality unravelled

Open, extravert, agreeable, stress-tolerant and conscientious. These are the character traits of surgeons according to research by Vincent Sier and Joost van der Vorst from the LUMC. They are trying to unravel the personality of various medical specialists.

The study is one of the first of its kind in the Netherlands. This surprised Sier: ‘In business, they’re much more versed in personality tests and colour profiles, but we think it would also be of great value in hospitals, for instance for team building and self-awareness in medical professionals.’ The research group, which also comprises Abbey Schepers (LUMC) and Roderick Schmitz (Groene Hart Hospital), sent a questionnaire to around 300 surgeons and surgeons in training in the Leiden area and concluded that they are more open, extravert, agreeable and conscientious and less susceptible to stress and anxiety than the normative Dutch population.

‘If you know you are more extravert or stress sensitive, you can take this into account in your contact with patients and colleagues.’

The perfect surgeon

This is not to say, says Sier, that surgeons should change their personalities if they do not conform to these traits. ‘We most certainly don’t want to portray the perfect surgeon,’ says Sier. ‘The value of this research lies in awareness, self-awareness and team building. If you know that, on average, you are more extravert or stress sensitive, you can take this into account in your contact with patients and colleagues. This can also be used as a team-building tool. You get to know one another better and potentially avoid friction and misunderstandings.’

Van der Vorst agrees: ‘There is relatively little in the medical literature about interprofessional team training in relation to personality.  It would be interesting in future to look, for example, at team training based on personality traits. Not so much in the sense of changing these traits but more to gain an understanding of them: knowledge of people’s strengths and weaknesses, both as individuals and as part of a team, could be an interesting platform for optimising healthcare systems.’

Personality of other medical specialties

The study of surgeons has since been rolled out nationally and Van der Vorst says other medical specialities are also interested in unravelling the common personality traits. ‘We were recently asked by gynaecologists and thoracic surgeons to do a similar study. Our aim in the future is to gain a more refined picture of the personality structures of different groups of care professionals.’


The results of this study were previously published in Surgery.

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