5 min read

What Personality Type Is Best for Medicine?

Published on
May 11, 2024

The healthcare field is a gruelling profession. The hours of training and practice are incredibly long, and the toll that the job takes on your moral endurance is testing. Often, to achieve admission into medical training, students have to sit aptitude tests. These exams, such as the UCAT or the GAMSAT evaluate a student’s psychometric potential. Clearing this hurdle, students then proceed to the interview, where their communication skills are examined by the medical school itself. 

This process is very rigorous, and most importantly, very university-centric. In other words, at no point does ACER or GEMSAS help you figure out what kind of doctor you should be; In fact, there is no emphasis on considering whether the medical career is right for you at all! 

This is where personality traits come into play. In this article, we are going to take a look at the different methods of classifying personality types. This will teach you to discover your own medical personality, that might even guide you in your future choice of medical specialty. 

The Basics - Type A and Type B Personalities

Type A and Type B personality hypothesis has a very interesting origin. The concept of types A and B personalities was first proposed by a pair of cardiologists, who were studying the relationship between personality and heart disease. These doctors suggested that a more competitive, ambitious, and neurotic personality was much more likely to operate at a level of stress which would lead to heart disease. Unfortunately, this appears to be a very narrow view of health, and the doctor’s relationship with the tobacco industry that sponsored the study did not help the skepticism surrounding this proposal. 

Nevertheless, though the classification system appears to have little impact on heart health, it was adopted by the field of health psychology. If even your personality type cannot predict your chances of suffering a heart attack, it is still a useful way of categorising behaviour. 

In the next few sections, we will discuss in detail what types of personalities type A and type B individuals display. Before going through these specific details however, it is important to understand that according to this psychological theory, everyone exists on a personality spectrum. On one end of the spectrum, there are type A personalities, on the opposite end, are type B personalities. The implications of this are that you do not have to fall neatly into a single category of personality.

Type A

Now that we have introduced the concept of the A - B personality spectrum, let’s go through the key qualities that a person with a type A personality may exhibit. Please remember that these personality types are simply theories based on observations - they are not objective. Neither are we encouraging you to pursue one personality type over another. This article should simply serve as a reflection of qualities you may possess.

There are three key features that a type A personality exhibits:

  1. Competitiveness - Type A personalities are often perfectionists. They compete with everyone and everything, themselves included. This behaviour is reflected in the consistent setting of goals, and diligent work towards achieving them through strict time management. These goals are set in an absolutely pragmatic sense, with productivity being valued over abstract joy. The work-life balance of type A personality is tilted heavily towards work, as they try and achieve a professional edge in their sphere of employment. 
  2. Time Urgency - Type A personalities always seem to be racing against the clock, to accomplish as much as possible, in as little time as possible. This is reflected in their tight schedules, which seem to be jam-packed with study, extra-curricular activities, and social events. If you loathe the idea of doing one task at a time, and are forever striving to multitask, then you may display this feature of a type A personality.
  3. Hostility - This does not mean violence! When we say that a Type A personality tends to be more hostile or rouses more easily, what we are trying to say is that these types of people tend to be more ‘wound up’. Type A individuals tend to be more stressed, and because they live in a high-stakes environment, tend to overreact to situations spiralling out of hand. 

Type B

A type B personality is quite easy to describe now that we have painted a picture of a type A. In essence, a type B is the opposite, or antithesis of a type A. Type B personalities work, but do so steadily, without a high-pressure rush. Similarly, this personality type sets objectives, but does not break down when these goals are not met by fixed deadlines. 

In general, a type B has a greater tolerance for the world around them. They have a greater tolerance for unexpected shortcomings, including the shortcomings of those around them. A type B would be more likely to be understanding if you were a team-member falling behind on a group project. 

The final, major difference between these personality types is that type B personalities are a lot more steadfast in the face of uncertainty. While they are less productive than type A, they tend to be more reflective, more creative, and significantly less anxious. 

Below is a great cartoon summary of the differences between type A and type B personalities. It is also a good opportunity for analysis in preparation for the humanities sections of the medical aptitude test - be it the UCAT or the GAMSAT

types of medical personalities

Advanced - Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator

Moving beyond the A-B personality spectrum, we are entering a more complex classification of personality types. We should once again stress the fact that more complex does not necessarily mean more correct. This is simply a more multifactorial perspective on personality. 

The Myers-Briggs system first achieved widespread implementation in the years following the second world war. It is loosely based on Jungian psychology, and is designed to be self administered. In other words, the purpose of Myers-Briggs is for you to take the test yourself, and then compare your result with the requirements of your professional field of interest. The idea here is that you are testing to see if you are a ‘good fit’ for the relevant industry. 

The Four Major Classes

Myers-Briggs has a very confusing nomenclature. The various personality types are composed of four letters. In fact, these represent four aspects of the personality:

Myers-Briggs Letter Abbreviation
First Letter: E Vs. I Extraversion Vs. Introversion
Second Letter: S Vs. N Sensing Vs. Intuition
Third Letter: T VS. F Thinking Vs. Feeling
Fourth Letter: J Vs. P
Judgement Vs. Perception

Given that for each of the four letter positions, you can only choose one option, there are 16 total possible personality combinations. Below are the details elaborating on the features of each of the letter categories. Try and figure which category you fit into!

Introverts Vs. Extroverts

The difference between extroverts and introverts is that the former get their energy from other people. If you love group projects, and enjoy balancing multiple friendship circles, you will almost certainly fall into the extrovert category. Having said this however, being an introvert does not mean that you are a shy recluse, it simply means that you prefer small groups of friends, and retrospection. Both personality types are present in the medical communities.

Sensing Vs. Intuition

The definition of a ‘sensor’ according to myers-briggs is somewhat unintuitive. A sensor is essentially a realist - a pragmatic person who focuses on the concrete facts of a given situation. This is the exact opposite of a person driven by intuition. Intuitive people concentrate on the possibilities in a given situation. This latter group enjoy conceptual, and abstract thinking, whereas a sensor would dismiss the abstract in favour of the technical and real. 

Thinking Vs. Feeling

This personality feature separates people based on their decision-making priorities. Do you approach problems analytically, working systematically through each technicality? Or do you prefer to make judgements based on your personal values, and the emotional responses of others? Medicine requires a balance of both, because humans are inevitably a mixture of rational behaviour and emotional motivation, especially when it comes to their own healthcare, and the wellbeing of their loved ones. 

Judging Vs. Perceiving 

The conflict between these two values consists of a clash between two time management approaches. A ‘judge’ is precise - they like rules and deadlines. The organisation skills of a judge have laser precision, and the foresight of many weeks to months. Events are planned carefully down to their minutia. 

A perceiver, on the other hand, is flexible. They measure their performance as they work on projects, and improvise should they fall behind. The spontaneity of a perceiver is a wildcare, with the potential of significantly better quality of life than that of a judge, but equally, there is the danger of being overwhelmed. 

Which Medical Speciality Fits My Personality?

The fortunate truth is that any medical speciality would benefit from a competent doctor, regardless of their personality type. Furthemore, if you love a speciality, however the field appears to be incompatible with your personality type, there is always the opportunity to innovate and change the status quo! The clinical or hospital ward you run as a specialist is often largely up to you!

There are however core values that are always important in every medical rotation. Firstly - never be late. While you may be a perceiver in your everyday life, the hospital requires a judge. This is especially true of the surgical specialties. Secondly, never be lazy. It is critical that you indulge in (at least) a little bit of intuitive expiration of clinical medicine in your early years of training. This is when you have the capacity to broaden your horizons, and understand the massive scope of the field. You should not limit this exploration to your preconceived boundaries of what medical work entails. Having said this, as you dive deeper into academic medicine, you may find that the work becomes significantly more introverted than extroverted. 

Ultimately, it is your clinical rotations in medical school where you will get to try the ‘fit’ of every field, and pick which one works best for your personality type. It is important to consider intellectual and lifestyle factors when making this decision. And remember, if you are passionate enough about a particular aspect of medicine, there is nothing to stop you from disregarding Myers-Briggs advice altogether, and following your heart!