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Confessions of an Introvert in Emergency Medicine

January 16, 2020

Written by Clay Smith

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Many emergency physicians are extroverts. Understanding how introverted colleagues, students, and residents operate can help us better appreciate each other.

Why does this matter?
What may seem like being uninterested or aloof may actually be an introverted person who is working up the nerve to speak out. This matters when we are interpreting non-verbal cues, especially when in a position to evaluate peers, students, or residents.

Introverts Unite…by email
This was an opinion piece in Academic EM. This physician is a self-described introvert who was struck by her own exhaustion after attending a large national EM conference, filled with largely extroverted EM colleagues. She brings up several points that introverts in EM need to be aware of and that extroverted colleagues would benefit in knowing.

  • Introverts may be less apt to speak up publicly. Since this is key for evaluation in some aspects of medical training, it is important for introverts to push past this and for extrovert evaluators to recognize and draw out reticent learners.

  • Most of us aren’t one or the other, introvert or extrovert. Most physicians have traits of both and fall right in the middle.

  • Extroverts may lead by vision and inspiration. Introverts may lead by implementing input gathered from a team.

  • Networking may be particularly difficult for an introvert, yet it is essential. Taking small steps to connect with others will help.

  • The author makes a plea for understanding from colleagues that introverts may seem disinterested, even arrogant, when not speaking up in public but may simply prefer 1:1 interaction.

  • Choosing a good mentor may be very helpful for introverts, not only for learning self-advocacy but also for career advancement.

Pardon Me for Being a Wallflower. Acad Emerg Med. 2019 Nov 29. doi: 10.1111/acem.13894. [Epub ahead of print]

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