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GPs ‘are more agreeable’ than surgeons

GPs are more agreeable than surgeons but not as conscientious, say researchers in a study published in the Postgraduate Medical Journal.

The team, who surveyed 262 Swedish medical school alumni to investigate whether personality traits affect specialisation after medical school, found that GPs, internal medicine and hospital service doctors had a more agreeable personality than surgeons.

But surgeons were significantly more conscientious than other medical specialities, which researchers attribute to surgery being ‘dominated by task-based procedural work’ and believe surgeons have a ‘higher conscientiousness, [because it] is related to task performance and practical skills.’

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Psychiatrists scored higher in terms of openness to experience compared to GPs but this was not significant when analysed.

Only 20% of respondents had completed their specialist training at the time of the survey, suggesting that personality influences specialism choice rather than the other way around.

The researchers believe that their study highlights how personality type may influence specialism after medical school and say that the results could help others come to an informed decision about their future.

They conclude: ‘Information on the characteristics of different specialties, including the composition of personality types among physicians working within a specific area, may help the learner to make an informed choice. Our results need to be reproduced in other settings, but we believe that they provide an indication of the importance of personality dimensions for specialty choices in a Swedish setting.’