Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Type A vs. Type B

A lot of doctors call themselves Type A personalities. We're high achievers, hard workers, competitive--basically, the definition of Type A.

I totally seemed like a Type A growing up. I always had to get the highest mark on exams even in stupid classes like history, I was a valedictorian, I finished projects like a week in advance and always went above and beyond what I was supposed to do.

Then, I don't know how, something changed when I went to college. I stopped caring so much about grades. I still did well, but trying to get the highest score wasn't even on my radar anymore.

In med school, people thought I was really laid back. I did okay grades-wise, but I wasn't stepping on toes or even pulling all-nighters to get the best possible grades. I wasn't AOA. When I told people I was thinking about PM&R, they said, "Oh, that's perfect for you because you're so laid back."

I can't figure out which is the lie. Am I a Type A competitive gunner? Or was that just inflicted on me by my parents and I'm really just a totally laid back Type B?

I was looking online and I found a few questions to help me differentiate:

Are you pressed for time at and after work?

I am writing this at work, so... no.

Do you always take work home with you?

Ew. No way.

Do you eat rapidly?

No. Unless it's McDonald's!

Do you have a strong need to excel?

Yes, I love the function where you type SUM() and it adds the numbers in the column for you!

Do you have trouble finding time to get your hair cut/styled?

No. Salon d'Fizzy's Bathroom is always open.

Do you feel or act impatient when you have to wait in line?

Does anyone like waiting on lines?? Plus I always choose the wrong line, where someone decides to pay with a check. Why would you buy groceries with a check?? What is wrong with people???

Do you get irritated easily?

Only if someone is buying groceries with a check. Or if I'm on my period or something.

Are you bossy and domineering?

Only if you're my husband. (Sorry, hon!)

When you were younger was your temper fiery and difficult to control?

I never actually get mad. The closest I come to getting mad is me saying in a calm voice, "I'm really mad."

So maybe I really am Type B. Or Type A. Or maybe you can't divide everyone in the world into two personality types.


  1. There are no true type Bs in medicine. Only type As that have been bitten by the lazy bug (and they still want the glory) and type As faking that they are type Bs because they've figured out that the "laid back" personality gets you higher grades than "gunner."

  2. There are also no type Bs in biomedical reseach. The drive to publish and get funded weeds out the Bs early on.

  3. Maybe you're a Type A.5 (or would that be Type B.5?)? or Type "a"? or it's like blood and you're a Type AB?

    I think the thing that matters is that you've found a place on the A--B continuum that works for you. And that you're ruining medicine by having personal interests and not being depressed. Shame on you.

    1. I know, right! How dare you have outside interests, Fizzy. My god. What kind of selfish person are you. Someone ELSE could have had your spot at med school who would have wanted to work 100 hours a week from now until eternity. God.

    2. OMG you two made me laugh so hard!

  4. Do there have to be strict absolutes in determining personality type? Seems a bit rigid, but I am not a doctor or a type A.

  5. Like much of our personalities, I believe it's on a spectrum. Let's say on a scale of 1-10, 7+ = type A. I'm a believer that pretty much all medical students are at least a 7, as you have to be motivated and goal/incentive driven in order to jump through all the hoops required to get you into/through medical school. I would say that I, (and possibly you, too) am just barely over the 7 mark, whereas the gunners in my class are 9-10, and some clearly crank it up to 11!

    I think where you are on the spectrum can also change with age. For me, I was more willing to sacrifice sleep, health, or happiness when I was younger. I was also a lot more rigid in my thinking of what "success" was, and I believe that growing more flexible, in terms of understanding that everyone has different priorities/goals, and different ways to meet them, will actually make me a better doctor.

  6. My husband teaches History. ;)

  7. I've always thought that, really, who cares. We probably all have some type A, type B and a lot of typos in our personality. Dividing all people into just two categories is just silly. It kinda happened the same to you. Back in high school I needed to be at the uppest top possible, I wanted to apply to a special scholarship and I needed to the best I could be. Then came college. And really, I don't know, for me, grades weren't THAT important anymore. Do I still want to be a doctor? Duh. A lot more than six years ago, when I was killing for perfection. Am I and underachiever now? Well, I do wonder sometimes.

    1. Whoa, I just don't know why, but I ate half the words in that paragraph :S

  8. I'd say the very fact that you draw cartoons says a loud 'B'. Being in medicine doesn't automatically make you type 'A'. Most anesthesiologists I know are type B. (I'm not saying that all anesthesiologists are type B or that anesthesiologists are the only ones with type B personalities. Those are just people I know. ) It's your life, and nobody has the right to tell you what to be, as long as you're enjoying yourself.

    1. So funny. I had to interview a physician once and he came in wearing casual slacks, a Hawaiian print shirt (in the Greater Boston area), and a stethescope draped around his neck. I asked, "Oh are you an anesthesiologist?" To which he replied in confusion, "No, an endocrinologist." I couldn't help myself when I responded, "An endocrinologist disguised as an anesthesiologist." Tricia

  9. It seems to me that people always consider type A to be a good thing. Like these are hardworking, motivated, successful people and so it's good to be type A and bad to be type B. I'm pretty hardcore type A, and I have to say I hate it. Being type A makes a persona miserable because it's so easy to blow every little thing way out of proportion.
    Not saying that motivation and drive aren't good things, but in this day and age it has a tendency to become too extreme.
    Personally, I wish I was more type B because then I know I would be so much happier.
    Not to mention this whole type A/type B thing originally came about as way to score people's risk for heart attacks.

    1. I'd prefer to be Type B too. I think feeling you have to be the best all the time is the route to feeling bad.

    2. In our Type A family, a lesson I taught my 11 yo daughter is that sometimes when life is making you nuts, you blow off doing your homework. It was a hard lesson to embrace for us both but it was a little thrilling too! Type A has some serious downsides too.

  10. I've always had an issue with that. Being type A doesn't make you a good leader. Neither does type B. and a lot of medicine is "leadership" - whether it be in your private clinic, or with your patients, or within a research study. And these type A type B things are in no way related to that. All we know is, by some people's definition of type A, they have more heart attacks and strokes. I think what's more important is a strong sense of responsibility, but that can be done in many ways. I can sprint up the stairs to a code because it is probably a patient of mine, or I can take my time and arrive in full breath, knowing that eight million people will be in the room by the time I arrive regardless of my speed. And at least then I'd be able to speak and relay the history. So... Yeah. IMHO.