Why Presentation Skills Will Help You As A Doctor

I recently worked on a group presentation with some of my classmates on treatment planning. We were given the patient’s chart and asked to come up with the best treatment for their condition and present the case to faculty member who would ask each presenter a different question on our treatment.

When we did a presentation run through, everyone read directly off the slides. For students with no exposure to public speaking and presentation skills, it is no surprise that they would do this. We sit through hours of lectures where professors read off slides that sometimes aren’t their own.

In college, as a pre-medical student, you may get away with awkward pauses and statements filled with hesitation (you know, those um’s and like’s in the middle of a sentence). In a professional school program, such as medical school, it is inexcusable not to have basic presentation skills.

I came up with a few suggestions for students interested in practicing speaking in public:

1. Look for opportunities to become a leader in your school in clubs

2. Raise your hand in class and ask questions

3. Take electives in your respective program or academic opportunities to write or speak in public

4. Learn by observing Ted Talks or YouTube videos

5. Participate in Toast Masters sessions

6. Look for Improv groups or clubs

Why is this important?

As doctors, we will work as independent clinicians. We will not be able to hide behind others when we are asked to present our research project or a patient case in the hospital. We are considered leaders in our communities and, for those working in private practice, will be leaders of a small team of auxiliary health care staff. You will have to give pep talks to your team.

As it relates to patients, they depend on you as their doctor to communicate their prognosis and treatment plans without hesitations or a quizzical look on your face. Patients often ask doctors “what would you do if you were in my shoes?” As the doctor, you are expected to be the authority. Your white coat indicates that you went to school, passed your classes, and jumped through the hoops to graduate your program. But, your patient doesn’t care if you barely passed Microbiology. What they do care about is how you present your ideas to them and how you communicate about their condition and their treatment with them.

Making the effort to learn presentation and communication skills isn’t just useless waste of time. It is, on the contrary, absolutely critical to your success as a doctor and as a health care provider.

So, take that class. Join that group. Watch that video. You won’t regret it. And even if they don’t thank you for it, you did it for your patients.

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Sonal Kumar

Sonal Kumar is passionate about combining science and storytelling. She has vast experiences outside of healthcare including marketing and advertising, print and broadcast journalism, including TV/radio production. Sonal is an alumna of Columbia University. She tweets @sonalkumar2011.