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Flashcards in Medical interview common questions Deck (50)
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1

Why do you want to go to Medical School?

This is a common question, so reflect carefully on the answer prior to interview
In order to answer it properly, you will need to first understand what exactly being a medical student and a doctor entails. This comes from research, work experience and talking to people ahead of you on the pathway
Aim to strike a good balance between passion and pragmatism — many people come across disproportionately one way or the other
Provide enough detail to be persuasive, but avoid waffling. More than three points is usually too much and impact will be lost
Get across your desire to interact with – and ultimately help — people. This is what being a doctor is all about
Try to capture why the combination of scientific drive and human engagement involved in Medicine appeals to you
Use examples from work experience and your personal life throughout to personalise and strengthen your answer
Common Mistakes:
Knowing you want to be a doctor but not being able to articulate why. This is usually a result of a lack of reflection
Referring to financial rewards or social status: these are not good motivators and there are other careers that offer more of both
Saying that you come from a family of doctors. This is not a mistake in itself, but you must stress that you have done your own exploration

2

If you were not offered a place to study Medicine, what would you do?

Saying you would apply again next year, and perhaps try to get a job or volunteering post in a related area in the meantime, shows commitment
Stressing that you would remain committed to the pathway in the face of a setback is a good demonstration of your desire to study Medicine
Show that you can turn misfortune to your advantage by outlining how you would make the most of the time – to gain more experience in healthcare for example
Perhaps suggest that you could try nursing or a related healthcare degree because they also involve patient care and that is ultimately what you’re interested in
Common Mistakes:
Simply saying ‘I will get in’ shows arrogance, rather than strength — and might tempt them to prove you wrong!
Saying straight away that you would do something unrelated suggests a lack of commitment and resolve

3

What aspects of the working life of a doctor appeal to you?

Hopefully you find it rewarding to help people who need it, and make a difference in peoples’ lives. So say so – and don’t be too afraid of sounding cheesy
Remember: as a doctor, you have the chance to make a real difference to peoples’ lives every day that you go to work
Patient care and disease management, alongside the medical research that takes place, is intellectually stimulating
It is a multi-faceted job that presents you with many exciting challenges
If you enjoy teamwork and problem-solving that will also be a big draw
Consider the diversity of opportunities available to healthcare professionals
Use work experience and other first-hand experiences to support the things that you say — make the answer personal to you
Consider mentioning that you are also aware that it is extremely challenging and stressful but that you believe the positives outweigh the negatives
Common Mistakes:
Focusing on career advancement, respect and remuneration
Saying that the life of a doctor is entirely positive and failing to appreciate the emotional difficulty involved

4

What aspects of the working life of a doctor don’t appeal to you?

Show that you understand, from research and work experience, that being a doctor comes with a lot of challenges
Without belittling these challenges, also keep a positive outlook and demonstrate that you are up for the challenge
Example: being a doctor can be very stressful and requires a huge commitment, which might restrict your personal or family life. However, there might also be good ways of finding a work-life balance that work for you
Example: death of patients is an inevitable part of being a doctor — show that you recognise that this will be an incredibly difficult thing to deal with. However, you can also refer to the support available for doctors experiencing difficulties with this
Remember, there is a huge range of opportunities available to a doctor. You will develop more of a sense of what you are best suited to as you move through Medical School
Common Mistakes:
Being blindly positive. Positivity is an excellent trait but not at the expense of realism
Saying that everything appeals and you can think of nothing that would be difficult about being a doctor shows a lack of appreciation for the realities
Referring too much to NHS cuts and working long hours for relatively small remuneration could make you seem like you have the wrong priorities

5

Can non-scientific hobbies add to a person’s ability to be a good doctor, and why? Can you think of any examples in your own case?

Medicine isn’t just a scientific career. It is people-based and therefore requires doctors to be well-rounded people who can relate to others
Non-scientific interests can help doctors achieve this, and relate to patients who don’t have a deep scientific understanding of their situation
Some universities, like Imperial, focus a lot on extracurricular as a sign of well-rounded candidates; find out each university’s stance beforehand
If you play music / sport / paint / do comedy / other, tell them about it and try to articulate why this might make you are stronger candidate
Extracurricular activities can demonstrate skills relevant to Medicine; sports people often show teamwork and leadership, for instance. Use extracurricular achievements to signpost doctor-worthy traits.
Example: I love playing the guitar, and have played in bands in my town for several years. It is a great way of meeting new people, and playing music together is one of the most enjoyable things I do. I would like to continue playing guitar alongside my medical studies, as I feel it could provide catharsis during stressful times. Patients or colleagues might also enjoy listening or playing music together!
Common Mistakes:
Focussing too much on extracurricular agendas at the expense of the Medical School. Remember, not everyone shares the same interests as you
Being dismissive of non-academic pursuits and saying things like ‘a doctor’s ability to diagnose illness is really the most important part’

6

Have you thought about what you would like to specialise in?

You don’t have to be certain. In fact, if you are it might seem a little strange, since you are only 17 and have a lot to learn. So make sure you are interested but open
Pick something that might interest you to show awareness of the specialities out there. This is your chance to show off about a book you’ve read, research you’ve followed, or a time (maybe on work experience) when you’ve truly been inspired
If you are going to choose something, it might be better if it is a general speciality because it shows you are still open to the wider possibilities Medicine offers. Choosing something too niche might make it seem like you are studying Medicine as a whole for the wrong reasons
Your answer should be focused on your interest: why a certain pathway appeals to you and how skills you already have now match that speciality
Know how long training for your chosen speciality is. They may ask you and it’s good to show you have done some research and have realistic expectations.
Make it clear that you’re aware that your view can change; that you’re excited to be exposed to all aspects of Medicine; and that you’ve got 5/6 years (hopefully at this Medical School) to make that decision.
Common Mistakes:
Being overly specific. There’s a danger of getting questioned on topics you don’t understand. In this case, never lie. Talk about the experience/knowledge of this speciality that you do have – and admit you don’t know it all
Being negative about certain specialities. You don’t really know enough about any aspect of Medicine yet to rule out anything and you need to show them your hunger to learn new things

7

Have you read about any interesting research recently?

Have a specific example ready. There’s always research in the news. They don’t expect you to know everything back to front, but as a rule it’s good to have awareness about as much as possible and a deep understanding about a few select topics
When introducing some research, don’t waffle. Mention the key points: topic, method, outcome, what you found interesting. If the interviewers want to know more then they will probe further
Strongly consider looking at the research that the Medical School has recently put out. You could pick one of those studies to talk about. You will score extra points for pointing out that certain research was pioneered at a certain medical school/hospital
Common Mistakes:
Mentioning an unreliable source, such as a tabloid newspaper. If you do, say that you looked up the original study or that you looked at the NHS news app which presents unbiased analysis of the health stories in the news and provides the main points of the studies/claims
Saying you’ve read something you haven’t or pretending to know something you don’t. If you don’t know the answer to a specific question, don’t panic. They want to find out what you do know. You can show off your independent thinking and potential by stating that whilst you don’t know, maybe it has to do with

8

What have you learnt about being Medicine from the doctors you’ve spoken to?

Talk about the doctors you’ve encountered on your work experience, or through other interactions, perhaps on a personal level, as a patient or a relative of a patient
Show understanding of the daily schedule of a (specific type of) doctor: what they do routinely, what challenges they face and the ways in which they overcome the challenges (through team work, communication skills etc.)
Show a realistic understanding of working hours, job stress, and the huge responsibility that doctors carry. But balance this by talking about the rewarding aspects of the job and how stress can be managed
Acknowledge that there’s so much more to learn and that’s there’s some aspects which you can only fully understand through experience
Common Mistakes:
Basing your answer on opinions. Stay focused on the practical aspects of Medicine that you’ve learnt about
Being overly negative. While realism is appreciated, you must also showcase your determination, positivity and appetite for a challenge

9

What do you think is the most exciting development in Medicine recently?

Do the work before the interview
Keep up to date with medical news in the build up to your interview and keep interesting articles about medical developments. Read around them and add them to your personal portfolio so you can revisit them before interview
Pick a specific example which really stands out to you. It should be one that will benefit a lot of people — or has the potential to do so in the future
Be clear and concise in your description: what it is, who’s working on it, where did you come across it and why you think it’s significant/interesting
Say how you think it will affect clinical practice and better the lives of patients. By thinking about this ahead of time, rather than in real time in the interview chair, you will come across as a strong candidate
Common Mistakes:
Getting too technical. Yes, it looks good if you can speak with some authority on the science. But stick to what you are comfortable with and understand
Relying on a poor source. If you start talking about something based on a tabloid article, you might come unstuck. Stick to authoritative sources, like the NHS, BBC, Student BMJ or New Scientist

10

Have you taken on any extracurricular projects that demonstrate your interest in Medicine?

Good examples include research placements, EPQs, essays, blogs, first aid training – and any other type of healthcare-based work outside the regular science curriculum
Example: some sixth forms encourage students to become health champions and educate other students on issues such as alcohol abuse and obesity. If your school doesn’t do this, why not suggest it? Then you can say you pioneered it at interview
Speak about your involvement with your Medical Society at school. If you are not heavily involved, correct this before your interview. If you’re school doesn’t have a Medsoc, start one! There’s a guide in the Teacher Services section of our website
Start by briefly introducing and explaining the project. Then focus on why you chose it, what you learnt and what particular aspects of the project you enjoyed the most.
Indicate that undertaking said project has inspired you take on similar projects in the future. Bonus points for linking this with the structure of the university’s course (SSCs, library projects, intercalated degrees etc.)
Common Mistakes:
Getting too caught up in the technicalities of the specific project. The most important aspect of your answer should be demonstrating your interest, and your willingness to put in time outside of your studies to pursue your interest. Don’t give everything away; they can always ask follow up questions
Giving the impression that what you’ve done so far is the only thing that you’re interested in. You should state that you want to learn about and take on new and different medically-related projects as well

11

Are you aware of the main method of teaching at this Medical School? What do you think are the advantages of this style of teaching?

It is absolutely essential that you know exactly what course structure the Medical School uses. Is it traditional/tutorial style, integrated, or PBL?
Read more about these course types generally on our website. But also read the university’s material to find out exactly how they use the structure. There are nuances involved
Make sure you are using very up-to-date information: universities change structure. For example, Cardiff now use a variation on PBL called Case-Based Learning (CBL)
Run through how the structure works — both in generally and specifically at this university – and, crucially, why you think it is an excellent way to learn and why it suits you very well
Focus more on the positives of the course structure they use, rather than fixating on the negatives of other systems
Some lecture-based advantages: dissemination of information is more consistent from lectures, and one can be sure that the information is correct and relevant to the course and exams. It means that everybody receives the same body of material, and thus a level playing field for the exams
Some PBL advantages: working in teams and developing people skills are central to the medical profession, and as such PBL can be a good way to simulate this working style. The earlier you get used to working together in teams, with the challenges this brings, the better
Be aware of whether the medical school does/does not offer dissection as part of the anatomy teaching, and be prepared to speak about the advantages of either approach
Common Mistakes:
Not knowing the course type. Saying something like ‘I don’t really know but imagine that there will be a mixture of lectures and practical sessions’ is very unimpressive
Knowing the course type used but not being able to speak about it in detail. How can you commit to something to a number of years without understanding it?
Saying that it doesn’t really matter to you because you are confident in your ability to thrive in any learning environment. That’s not accurate: it does matter

12

Do you think cadaveric dissection is important for medical students?

First, you should know whether this is something that the Medical School you’re applying to does or not, and factor this into your thinking
On the positive side, it could be a good way to learn about the body, as plastic models and animations can only ever approximate anatomical structures
It also brings certain gravity to anatomy teaching, and dissecting a real human body can be a very inspiring and humbling experience
However, cadavers are not the only way to learn anatomy. Sometimes models can be helpful to generalise structures or represent things in a slightly different way that aids with one’s learning of a particular structure
Sometimes abstractions are the best way of learning about something, while seeing the real thing is the most effective way of understanding it. Therefore, a mix of cadaveric dissection and model-based teaching is probably a desirable thing
Common Mistakes:
Not knowing what cadaveric dissection is. This is a key part of learning about the body and you have to get to grips with it
Not knowing what the university’s stance is. This leaves you playing an uncomfortable guessing game, where you do not know whether to expound the positives or be more withdrawn
Expressing trepidation (e.g. ‘I think I would find that revolting and probably wouldn’t want to try those sessions out’). The human body is what Medicine is all about
Saying that you don’t think that cadavers can be very useful, because doctors work with living patients and not dead ones

13

Why did you put this medical school as your first choice?

Make clear that you considered the type of teaching of the Medical School and how it is used, compared it to various others
If course structure has not already been covered as a standalone question, make clear why you think that their course structure is a great fit for you
Pick out any key unique selling points that make this university stand out, and explain why you think they are important
Once you have covered the course, you can talk about the extracurricular activities and societies at the university
A good approach is to say that you are looking for somewhere that offers excellence in teaching, as well as good opportunities to get involved in extra-curricular activities
Make it clear that you are really passionate about their Medical School by saying something like ‘I would be delighted to have the chance to study here’’
Common Mistakes:
Emphasising the location before anything else. For example, saying you want to attend a great institution like Imperial ‘because it’s in Central London and living in South Kensington would be cool.’ Start with the course!
Not knowing the course structure properly and consequently saying things that demonstrate a lack of knowledge, such as ‘I like the PBL teaching approach’ when PBL is not used at the Medical School
Talking about anything to do with nightlife or bars!

14

Are you aware of the catchment area of the teaching hospitals that this Medical School has?

This is another essential to famiarise yourself with before the interview
First, you need to know the process: what is the relationship between Medical Schools and their teaching hospitals and how does this help improve your training towards becoming a doctor
It is essential you know which hospitals are associated with the Medical School, what they are like and where they are. They aren’t always very close!
Therefore, you will be able to tell them you know that the school is associated with hospitals in x area, and that you like the idea of being sent on placement to hospitals in that area
It is important as a Medical Student to get a window into as many parts of the NHS as possible, so being sent on placement to the various hospitals associated with this Medical School will be a good opportunity to do that
Common Mistakes:
Not understanding the concept of teaching hospitals and how their association with the Medical School works
Not knowing which hospitals are associated with the university
Saying that you are aware that students can get sent to regional hospitals but that you hope that you are able to do all your placements in the city, as it will be far more convenient and exciting

15

This university offers a wide range of extra-curricular societies reflecting the diversity of students and courses we have here. If you were a student here, which societies would you be interested in joining?

Remember that some universities, like Imperial, place a lot of emphasis on extracurricular activity because it demonstrates you are a well-rounded candidate
If you are not interested in anything other than Medicine, you may look too insular, so you should have thought about this and had a look at what societies are available at the university
If there is something that you already do, like a sport, then that will be a natural thing to bring up. If you can cite something particular about this university’s club (e.g. their results last year) that is a plus
Example: I would like to get involved with the x (e.g. hockey) society, because it has been a hobby of mine for some years, and I feel I could contribute to the university team, who got to the semi-finals last year
If you do not have a natural fit, show that you are proactive and open-minded by speaking about some things you haven’t tried before but would like to at university
Example: I would like to try out x (e.g. karate), because I have not tried it before and I would really like to see if it is something I enjoy.
Example: I would like to learn about x (e.g. Arabic) because it has always fascinated me, but I have never had the opportunity to pursue this.
Common Mistakes:
Being dismissive of extracurricular activities and not seeming like a well-rounded candidate. Saying something like ‘I imagine I will have too much studying to be doing to be getting involved in any activities like this’ is dangerous ground
Being closed minded and saying something like ‘trying new things is not something that I am really interested in’ or ‘I already am part of clubs for all of the activities that I enjoy doing, and so would not need to join any new student societies’

16

Why is uncontrolled use of antibiotics a dangerous thing? What can we do about it?

Antibiotics are used to treat a wide range of infections, ranging from life threatening conditions to common respiratory tract infections
They are our only defence against many of these illnesses, but can become ineffective as bacteria have the ability to develop mutations that protect themselves from the drugs
The more antibiotics are used, the more likely it is that bacteria will develop protection against them. It is therefore important to use them sparingly so that we have effective antibiotics to combat life threatening conditions for as long as possible
Continued medical research is an essential tool that could create new drugs that bacteria are not resistant to
Changes to clinical practice, encouraging doctors not to prescribe antibiotics to those who do not necessarily require them, could help
Public health campaigns could highlight these issues, encouraging patients not to request antibiotics when they have the common cold, for example
Common Mistakes:
Saying that we need to stop giving away antibiotics to every patient who requests them because patients need to understand that it is the doctor’s decision whether to provide these drugs
Belittling patients who want antibiotics or doctors who prescribe them too quicky. For example, saying that prescribing antibiotics are an easy way of keeping a patient happy

17

What role do public health campaigns like anti-smoking TV adverts have in the NHS, and why is this a good way to spend NHS resources?

Pay close attention to health campaigns. These are used a lot and are seen as a significant weapon against disease and a way of safeguarding the NHS
Although healthcare professionals are well equipped to deal with a huge range of medical conditions, they are overstretched and under-funded. Prevention of disease is a major way that this burden can be, to a degree, alleviated
Through education, it is possible to make people aware what causes certain diseases, and therefore to encourage them to cut down on such practices. This can both improve the quality of their lives and ensure NHS resources are well used on other patients
However, it is important to note that not all diseases are preventable through education. Cancer, for example. So this is not a catch all solution
Think also from a scientific and analytical perspective: how measurable are the results of these campaigns? Try to look up some statistics online
Whether this is good or bad is probably too black and white: it ultimately depends on effectiveness, which links to the cost/reward ratio on a campaign basis and requires constant monitoring
Common Mistakes:
Viewing this kind of campaign as unimportant when set against the serious business of saving lives through medical activity. Saying for instance, that people never really listen to TV adverts and it is a waste of money
Being closed minded and not seeing all sides of the debate. Instinctively believing that money needs to be spent on hiring more doctors, as they are the ones who actually treat the patients
Not recognising the power of prevention — an increasing trend, which you need to be aware of

18

Is mental health an area of concern for the NHS, and if so why?

Mental health conditions can be a terrible burden for somebody suffering from them, and it is the duty of the NHS to help them
Modern society is increasingly fraught and stressful for many people, and this can lead to a wide range of mental health problems
Mental health conditions can also lead to physical problems
Mental and physical health care are both equally important when considering the health of a whole person, and mental health should therefore be receiving a significant amount of NHS resources
Recently, this has been a focus for many of the political parties, and the Liberal Democrats focused on mental health as a flagship policy in the 2015 election
Common Mistakes:
Saying that the NHS is charged with treating serious conditions like trauma and cancer, and mental health should be dealt with by other services
Believing that depression is not that serious and that psychologists can sort out things like that

19

Should vaccinations of children against common infectious diseases be compulsory?

First, as with so many questions of this type, it is important to establish the basic facts before getting into detail
Despite medical progress, preventable disease continues to affect millions of people, and vaccines for many of these are readily available. Vaccinating children is one way of halting their spread
The consequences of a parent’s child becoming infected are not just borne by that child, or that parent, but also the local community, who are at risk as well
However, forcing vaccination on all school children might be seen as overly paternalistic and parents may see this as a loss of their freedom to choose how to care for their child
In terms of the four pillars, this comes down to a choice between autonomy and non-maleficience — it’s a difficult balancing act
Common Mistakes:
Taking up a partisan position based on personal opinion
Even if you have a very strong personal opinion, it is better to walk through the arguments on both sides

20

A recent study estimated that by 2050 more than half of the UK population could be obese. Is this a cause for concern and if so, why?

Start by recognising that the issue has been in the news and cite anything you may have read or heard to corroborate this. If you have seen the study, say who it was by to really impress the interviewers
Move on to the problem itself. Why might obesity cause concern? Well, obesity is associated with a wide range of health problems, including diabetes and osteoarthritis, among others
These lead to a low quality of life for the person affected. Furthermore, their consequent conditions can cost the NHS. This is already a huge drain of NHS resources, so it is worrying that the trend is going up
It is therefore the interest of the NHS, and the population as a whole, to try to combat the rise of obesity
In most cases obesity is preventable and manageable, and can be reduced with exercise and diet advice. So, there is hope that even though the study estimates a spike in obesity numbers, these can be brought down with hard work
Common Mistakes:
Failure to see all the angles. There are lots of stakeholders in this problem: the patient, the NHS and the population as a whole. Try to see the big picture
Believing that the NHS shouldn’t be involved in giving lifestyle advice; it should stick to treating illnesses

21

How much does a mountain weigh?

As with all questions of this sort, you won’t be able to get an exact answer. They are looking for you to talk through a systematic methodology. It is about applying reasoning and scientific rationale to an unusual scenario
You don’t have to answer straight away. Take a little time to map out a good starting point. Ask for a moment if you need. But you do have to start articulating your thought process at some point — probably before you know it is complete
You should ask logical questions, such as: what shape is the mountain? How tall is it? And what is the radius of the base?
Getting these parameters would allow you to use an appropriate mathematical formula, such as the one for the volume of a cone: one third pie r squared, multiplied by height
If they are not prepared to provide any further information, then you would need to work out how you would get some of these answers, like consulting existing maps
You can then ask about other important factors that will have a major impact, like the type of mountain it is and what type of rock it is made out of. Perhaps you would take a rock as a sample and extrapolate the weight
Common Mistakes:
Freezing. You have to articulate some sort of logical thought process.
Thinking for a moment and then coming out with a random number. Even if, by great chance, this was accurate, it defeats the purpose of the exercise

22

How different would the world be if the wheel wasn’t invented?

Again, this is about implementing a logical process in a difficult situation — and covering all the angles. You might begin by talking about uses of the wheel currently
Transport would be a good starting put, since a lot of types of transport depend on the wheel e.g. cars, bikes, aeroplanes, boats with wheel engines
Be creative, though. Wheels are used for transport but try to cover as many angles as possible to show you can think outside the box
What about water wheels in electricity production? In machinery, the wheel evolved into gears and propellers. So without the wheel all these areas would be affected
You might want to speculate on whether humans would have created alternatives or whether the advancements made possible by the wheel would simply not have been made
Then move ahead to the next logical step. What are the implications of this? Would it have affected the evolution of society? (The world would definitely be a smaller place)
Remember, the wheel has also affected lots of other major things, like war and trade. You should try to cover as many bases as possible. You might spark some lively debate, which could even end up being quite fun
Common Mistakes:
Not considering all the various implications, causes and effects. It’s obvious to say that there would be no cars, but you need to show that you think out of the box.

23

How many words are there in an average book?

You need to get as much detail as you can before launching headlong down what could be a logical rabbit hole
First, establish what type of book it is. You can ask but they might not say. In which case just state that you’re assuming it is, say, a novel, because this makes life easier (if it were a textbook for example, there would be diagrams and tables; this differs a lot from book to book)
Think logically. Start with the average number of pages in a novel. This doesn’t have to be right, just reasonable. Always use round numbers, so you can multiply them out without causing a huge headache. In this case let’s say 300 pages.
Then, estimate how many words are on each page. Again, break this down. Possibly twenty lines, each with ten words. So 200 words
300 multiplied by 200 equals 60,000 words
However, to really show you are thinking of all angles, estimate how many pages would be wordless (or have less words e.g. dedication and review pages). Say this is equivalent to ten wordless pages.
10 multiplied by 200 equals 2,000 words. Subtracting this from 60,000, means that your average book is 58,000 words long
Common Mistakes:
Coming out with a random number. This question is evaluating your thought process. It might be that your mother is an author and you know the answer, but they want to see you talk a problem through, so try to respect that
Using difficult numbers. Saying that each page has 184 words and there are 317 pages will leave you with some difficult sums to do

24

To what extent do you think fear is beneficial?

This is an example of a more abstract, and less process-driven, creative interview question, and as such it requires a slightly different process
You should take a moment to think up a balanced argument, which reflects both sides of the situation. You can’t be black and white about such a complex and subjective issue
Arguments for: inhibition, in the sense of keeping yourself out of dangerous situations, is an evolutionary instinct to promote self-preservation. It modulates your relationships with other people and it gives you a social conscience
Arguments against: fear can limit your human experience. It is not always necessary, and it can be dictated by your past encounters with certain stimulus. Past a certain point it can be detrimental to your heath
You could then link the question to the medical environment¦
Disease puts patients in vulnerable situations in which there is an element of fear and this can be harmful when it comes to good decision making. You should make it clear that you understand that fear will have an impact on your interactions with patients
There will be moments in your career where you may be unsure of your decisions and fear the possible outcomes/consequences. This is natural, and you should show an awareness of this
You could also state that this will lessen as you gain more experience and confidence, and that even when you are ‘worried’ you would be confident that you acted within guidelines, consulted your colleagues and made a reasonable decision
Common Mistakes
Giving a one-sided answer. Questions like this merit more than a simple binary answer of ‘yes’ or ‘no’, ‘good’ or ‘bad’. You have to recognise, and show that you can appreciate, the shades of grey and complexity involved

25

Why do we wear shoes?

Another esoteric-sounding question that requires you to think logically about something that we usually take for granted
Though it seems quite arresting, this question isn’t too bad if you think about the practicalities, which is the key to a lot of creativity questions
Shoes are a social norm. Most people have never questioned why we wear shoes because that is what is generally accepted. Not wearing shoes is considered abnormal.
But was it always this way? And what could have led to it becoming so? Perhaps it made walking long distances and hunting easier, centuries ago
From a functional perspective, shoes are protective. They prevent injury. Some shoes, like steel toe work shoes, are designed specifically for this function. What other functions require specific shoes? Hiking, climbing etc. Or sport?
Consider different cultures. Don’t only think about your perspective — this is part of what can help you stand out. There are many groups of people in other parts of the world that actually don’t wear shoes
Of course, there are also aesthetics to consider. People put a lot of thought into how they look and this extends to their shoes. Many women wear shoes they consider uncomfortable to increase their height or make their legs look longer
From here, you could contrast the functional reasons you touched upon earlier with the recent (first world) shift towards aesthetics. Be creative!
Common Mistakes:
Feeling inhibited. Sometimes questions like this, where there are no short and simple answers, make people retreat into a shell. They are afraid to speak about ideas, rather than certainties, at the risk of sounding silly
Not practising this kind of discussion. By getting used to thinking this way, either with friends, or around the table at a family meal, you can train you mind to think creatively

26

What do you understand about euthanasia? Does euthanasia have a place in modern medicine?

First things first, what is euthanasia? This is the term given to describe actions taken to deliberately end someone’s life, often to relieve suffering. There are many different types of euthanasia, such as active euthanasia, passive euthanasia, voluntary euthanasia and involuntary euthanasia
Establish the fact that this is a complicated issue with lots of shades of grey and no straightforward answer
While weighing up both sides, think of the four pillars of medical ethics: justice, autonomy, benevolence and non-maleficience. All of these play a pivotal role in this issue
Start with legality, if you know it, since it is the most clear cut. Currently, in the UK active euthanasia and assisted suicide is against the law. However in Belgium, Luxembourg and Holland, active euthanasia is legal. In countries such as Switzerland and Germany, active euthanasia is illegal but assisted suicide and passive euthanasia are both legal. Make sure keep up to date with any changes
Euthanasia allows the patient to exercise their right to decide their own fate and end suffering (benevolence). However, arguments against euthanasia include the principles of the Hippocratic Oath which state a doctor shall “do no harm”, and the related ethical concept of non-maleficence
Assessing mental capacity and competency of patients (Mental Capacity Act 2005) is crucial in the discussion of euthanasia, as legalisation of this could potentially put vulnerable adults at risk
Some cases of patients who have travelled abroad for these end of life services have also been a hot topic in the media so it would be good to reference any of these cases that you are aware of
The discussion of euthanasia is a sensitive one and thus it is always best to look to the ethical guidelines provided by the GMC
Common Mistakes:
Starting with a strong view point one way or the other. It is important to establish that this is a complicated issue with arguments for both sides and to present these in a balanced way
Not using the four pillars of ethics. These should be referenced throughout balancing of the two sides of the argument

27

Do you agree with abortion? What are the ethical issues here?

Start by acknowledging that this is a complex issue with two sides and lots of shades of grey. Then walk through both in a balanced way, showing an appreciated of the four pillars
Is it legal? Under current UK legislation (The Abortion Act) an abortion can only be carried out if certain criteria are met: the pregnancy is in its first 24 weeks, it is carried out in a hospital or licenced clinic and two doctors must agree that an abortion would cause less damage to a woman’s physical or mental health than continuing the pregnancy. In rare situations, an abortion may also be allowed to be carried out after 24 weeks
If we consider patient autonomy, there is a case to say that patients should have the right to have an abortion if they wish
Considering the ethical concept of beneficence, first, it is important to have the best interests of the mother at the centre of their healthcare (both psychological and physical well-being). Secondly, an abortion may be the most loving thing to do in the case of a foetus with severe deformities, as this presents issues with quality of life
Non-maleficence – it is important to prevent any harm and thus considering the harm to both the mother and the foetus is important in the discussion of abortion. It is also important to consider the sanctity of life and some, based on this principle, may disagree with abortion. But it’s quite subjective
As with all consultations, confidentiality must be upheld in the case of abortions
The discussion of abortion is a sensitive one and thus it is always best to look to the ethical guidelines provided by the GMC
Common Mistakes:
Starting with a strong view point one way or the other. It is important to establish that this is a complicated issue with arguments for both sides and to present these in a balanced way
Not using the four pillars of ethics. These should be referenced throughout balancing of the two sides of the argument

28

A patient refuses treatment for a life-threatening condition. Discuss the ethical issues involved.

In a scenario like this there are many ethical issues involved. It is important to look at each one individually, in order to fully understand and weigh up the scenario
First of all, if we consider the duty of the doctor. In a case like this is it crucial the doctor fully informs the patient of the benefits of the treatments and the risks associated with not having the treatment
If we consider the concept of patient’s autonomy, then doctors must respect the decision made by a patient. However, patient autonomy is not absolute, particularly if a patient is not competent
Beneficence and non-maleficence often link together and this is no exception. The most beneficial thing to do may be to provide the patient with the treatment they need. However, if this is against the patient’s wishes this might do more harm than good. Whatever the patient’s decision may be, doctors must continue to provide the best care in the patient’s best interests.
Always be clear that you would adhere to the GMC’s guidelines
Common Mistakes:
Not knowing about autonomy. You need to be clear about all of the four pillars of ethics. This is a key one that trips many people up

29

A 14 year old patient goes to the GP and asks for the oral contraceptive pill. Discuss the ethical issues involved.

As usual, we start by using the four pillars of medical ethics as a framework
Currently, under UK Legislation, those under the age of 16 are not able to give consent to sexual activity. It is always important to consult the GMC and their ethical guidelines on young people and sexual activity for the most up to date information
If we begin with the duty of the doctor, they must fully inform the patient of the benefits of the treatments/protected sex and the risks associated with not having the treatment/unprotected sex. The doctor also has a duty to society to ensure the safety of their patients and ensure child protection and safety
Therefore, competence is a major aspect to consider. Establishing and assessing competence (Gillick competence) is also very important in a case like this to ensure sexual abuse is not taking place and for child safety
Autonomy – doctors must respect the decision made by a patient. However, patient autonomy is not absolute, again linking to assessing competence, which will be an important part of this answer
Beneficence and non-maleficence – doctors must continue to provide the best care in the patient’s best interests, and their personal views must not interfere with their professional duties
It is also important to consider confidentiality and the effect on the doctor-patient relationship, which is built upon trust
Common Mistakes:
Being judgemental. Saying something like ‘14-year-olds shouldn’t be engaging in sexual activity in the first place’ is a red flag

30

A patient diagnosed with HIV reveals to their GP they have not disclosed this information to their partner. Discuss the ethical issues involved.

This is a complex scenario and it’s important to consider and apply each of the four pillars
The doctor must fully inform the patient of the risks associated with not disclosing this information and encourage them patient to disclose this information to the partner, themselves. The doctor also has a duty to protect and ensure the safety of society (justice) and, based on these grounds, may choose to make a disclosure to the patient’s partner about the patient’s HIV status. However, this would be a last option and the doctor would need to inform the patient of their actions.
Autonomy – this links to patient’s autonomy, as doctors must respect the decision made by a patient. But patient autonomy is not absolute, particularly in a case like this where society/another patient is at risk. In this case, confidentiality may be broken, which may also affect the doctor- patient relationship
Beneficence and non-maleficence – doctors must continue to provide the best care in the patient’s best interests. When making a disclosure, it is important to weigh up the benefits (protecting another patient’s health) against harm (could affect the doctor-patient relationship and future disclosures)
You can say to the interview panel that it is always important and helpful to consult the GMC’s ethical guidelines in cases like this
Common Mistakes:
Not knowing but claiming you do. If you are aware of the above that’s great. If you think you are, then say that you are not sure but you think it is the case. If you don’t know the legalities then be honest about it
Using common sense. You can’t just come up with a common sense reply, like ‘logically you should tell the partner’. You have to be aware of the legal ramifications

31

How would you define empathy to someone who does not know what it means?

Empathy is understanding another person’s feelings or situation, and imagining what it might be like to experience these things yourself
Phrases such as ‘being in another’s shoes’, ‘seeing things through their eyes’, ‘imagining their frame of reference’, or similar all suggest empathy
Distinguish empathy from sympathy. The former is deeper and more involved than the latter, which merely acknowledges another person’s problems or feelings
It involves effective person-to-person communication skills as well as the ability to understand what another person is feeling
Use examples from your daily life or medical work experience to illustrate when you have shown this or seen it in action
Common Mistakes:
Thinking that empathy is pretending to know what someone is feeling like in order to make him or her feel better about the situation
Believing that being empathetic is an easy way of getting someone to trust you
Thinking that empathy is a skill to be utilised only in professional settings, and not in everyday life

32

Why is it important for medical professionals to be empathetic towards their patients?

When a healthcare professional tries to imagine things from the patient’s point of view it can reveal to them ways to improve their care which they may not have considered before
A patient will find it easier to discuss their concerns with somebody who is caring empathetically for them and has taken the time to try to understand what they are going through
A patient’s feelings, concerns, expectations and ideas are just as important as a presenting a physical complaint. By engaging with them, a healthcare professional can better understand these things, and ultimately provide better care
An empathetic healthcare professional will help to make the patient feel at ease, and that they are valued
Empathy can help to break down the perceived barriers between the patient and the many healthcare professionals he or she may see, and help to make what can be a daunting and seemingly anonymous environment more comfortable.
Common Mistakes
Not having a good understanding of empathy. Confusing it with sympathy, or that it is only used when the doctor thinks the patient is depressed
Being empathetic means I tick the box of being a nice doctor
Thinking too pragmatically. For example, saying that empathy is important because it gives doctors a good feedback rating

33

Imagine that you are a medical student on a hospital ward placement. How would you explain to a patient that they need to have another blood sample taken, as the results of the last test having been lost?

Put yourself in the shoes of the patient. What might they be worried about?
They have been through a procedure which they may have found uncomfortable and, through no fault of their own, are being asked to go through it again
They also might be worried about the privacy issues involved around the loss of their blood sample
You would need to speak to them clearly and politely but make it absolutely clear what has happened so they are left in no doubt what has occurred. Do not use euphemisms
Put yourself in their shoes; listen to their concerns and what they have to say
You might say: ‘I am very sorry that you have to have more blood taken’
You could also consider saying: ‘I can imagine that you are feeling frustrated about this, as you have been waiting and have not yet received results for your blood tests’
And: ‘Please be reassured that we will not share the results of your test with anyone outside your medical team. I can see that it might be worrying that your last test was lost, but we take confidentiality very seriously and will do our absolute best to make sure that this is preserved’
Common Mistakes:
Saying things in a curt, impolite or distant manner. This is likely to further frustrate a patient who is already going through a lot
Using euphemisms like ‘a small hiccup’ which might mislead or confuse the patient about what has happened
Blaming other people. Even if it is somebody else’s fault, this will not make the patient feel any better

34

Why should members of a healthcare team show empathy towards one another as well as towards their patients?

Working in healthcare (e.g. a hospital) can be very stressful and demanding. One’s colleagues may need support from somebody who understands this well
Extra-professional circumstances can impact on somebody’s ability to do their job, and if they choose to share problems or concerns with you then it is important to show empathy and try to understand what they are going through
A better understanding of one another improves a team’s ability to work well together and therefore improves patient care
Working in a hospital can be traumatic or distressing, and this may affect team members personally. Having empathetic colleagues can make them feel more positive and that they are well supported in their work
Common Mistakes:
Citing going to the pub with members of the team to build better bonds between you as an empathetic solution
Saying that working in medicine gives you no time for social activities, so you might as well be friendly with the people you work with

35

Is the practice of being an empathetic healthcare professional something that you can learn in a lecture?

Although not the principal medium for learning about empathy, a lecture may give some insightful points about the effect that being empathetic has on patients, or ideas for how to go about conducting a good patient interview
However, empathy is intrinsically people-based, and the skill of being empathetic is therefore developed over time spent with people in one’s role as a medical student
By watching other senior healthcare professionals, one may realise the pitfalls in one’s own approach to interacting with patients
Common Mistakes:
Thinking a lecture could give you the stock phrases you need to seem empathetic
Assuming empathy cannot be actively improved upon or learnt about
Viewing empathy as less important than things like anatomy or physiology

36

If your peers were to describe you in three words, what would they be?

This is quite a nice question because it gives you a chance to show off without looking too boastful, since you are technically speaking about other peoples’ opinions of you
Use three different words that demonstrate a large breadth of your qualities — this is your chance to show what you have to offer
You know the kind of thing that makes a good doctor by now, so those are the ones to use, e.g. determined, creative, empathetic, team player, driven
For every quality you give, also say why you think your peers would say that about you, using evidence to support your supposed strengths
Example: my sports coach always describes me as one of the most driven and determined players on our team because of the way I balance academics and other extra-curriculars, such as my volunteering, alongside my sport
Common Mistakes:
Missing the opportunity to highlight core strengths. This is an opportunity to showcase qualities that specifically make you a good doctor and should be used that way
Saying that you don’t know. This would highlight a serious lack of awareness, not to mention empathy, which is crucial to being a good doctor

37

What is your biggest weakness?

Many people never think about this. But you should
It is something that requires careful consideration. It’s important that you choose something which isn’t debilitating (e.g. fear of blood) and that you have worked on to counter
Example: I was not very confident with public speaking and found it intimidating. While it is still quite difficult for me, I have joined the debating society so that I can get better in this area and my peers say they have noticed a great improvement
Common Mistakes:
Not thinking about this in advance. This means if you get asked, there is a chance you will either struggle to think of one, look arrogant, or under pressure come out with something that is quite debilitating
Stating something that isn’t really a weakness, like working too hard

38

How do you deal with stress?

Being a medical student and then a doctor is extremely stressful. You have to show that you know this, referring to work experience and people you’ve spoken to
Example: from my work experience and talking to many medical students here at your university, I understand that a career in Medicine will be very stressful
You don’t want to imply that you have the secret formula to nullify stress, but you should suggest some things you do to manage it. You can start by giving some of the general activities that help you feel less stressed
Example: whenever I start to feel stressed I find that what helps me deal with it the most is doing yoga/going for a walk/making a plan of action
Then explain how this has helped you in a real life situation
Example: this really helped me during exam season and even throughout the year when I’ve had to juggle and balance academics alongside my extracurricular activities
You might also want to think of how you would manage stress in a confined environment, like an operating theatre (e.g. deep breaths, asking for help)
Explain that stress management is something you want to continue working on throughout Medical School and your career
Common Mistakes:
Underestimating the amount of stress involved in being a doctor and therefore showing a lack of awareness about the career
Acknowledging that Medicine is stressful but implying that you will be able to deal with that quite easily

39

Do you know when to seek help?

Feel free to make clear that you are really determined to use your own hard work to achieve any goals
Having said this, it is crucial that you also recognise that it is important to know your limits and when you may need help
Going to Medical School is about learning, so knowing when to seek the counsel of others is important
We all have different strengths and weaknesses and it’s important to be aware of this
Example: when I was in charge of organising a major school charity event, there was no way it would have been as successful as it was if I didn’t have the help of my team.
Example: from my work experience, I understand that as a doctor, it is impossible to expect to be able to do everything yourself. There will be times where you will need to ask for help, whether that’s from the nurses on the ward or other colleagues
Remember: teamwork is an essential part of succeeding in Medicine
Common Mistakes:
Seeing asking for help as a sign of weakness. In fact, it is often quite the opposite. Knowing when to get help and using it to improve is seen as a strength
If you are too insular and unwilling to ask for help you may struggle at Medical School and — worse still — make bad mistakes as doctor

40

What would be your greatest strength and why?

Give a strength that is one of the core traits required to make a great doctor – and one that you can back up with compelling evidence
Common examples include being a good leader or listener, having excellent communication skills or being a real team player
Example: I’m a great team player. This is something that has helped me excel in a lot of different situations, from helping our sports team win important matches to organising a major school charity event
Refer to examples from you work experience which show how this trait translates into a medical environment
Common Mistake:
Saying something not relevant to Medicine. Being a good cook, for instance, is not relevant to Medicine
Saying too little for fear of sounding arrogant. You have to tell them about your strengths, so get used to this by practising with friends and family

41

Give an example of a time you worked in a team and it was successful?

Briefly set the scene: what type of team, what were you doing, what was the goal and what was the outcome?
After this has been established, talk about your role. They want to find out what you contributed so be specific. You need to say not just what you did, but how you did it
Example: if you contributed to the smooth communication within the team, maybe it was because you set up a group chat, you addressed each member directly and checked up on each member’s individual progress, encouraging everyone to post their progress and striving to keep everyone in the loop
Have a set example of a time you have shown good teamwork. Ideally, it should have a resolution to showcase your problem-solving skills
Then conclude by stating what you learnt about the qualities of a successful team. This shows that you are reflective. You can go a step further by relating it to Medicine and how the learning points can be applied in future, at medical school and beyond
Common Mistakes:
Taking too long describing the example. Everything you say should be made relevant by either reflecting your individual good qualities or by showing your understanding of the important factors of team work
Not focusing on right things. Your gold Duke of Edinburgh award is less important than the skills/qualities you’ve learnt that can translate to Medicine

42

Give an example of a time you worked in a team and you failed?

Again, start with the basics
Briefly set the scene: what type of team, what were you doing, what was the goal and what was the outcome?
Then talk about your role specifically. Though the team did not reach its objective, they want to find out what you contributed. There will still be positives to take from it
Show that you are able to reflect, learn and improve. Say what went wrong and why. However, don’t be over-critical of team mates or blame people
Say what you would change next time in order to achieve a more desirable outcome
Translate these lessons into something applicable to your future career as a medical student and a doctor
Common Mistakes:
Being too self-deprecating. This is not a pity party. You need to show introspection i.e. that you’ve learnt from past mistakes, and that you are confident of correcting them in future
Placing blame. Constructively criticise the failings of the team instead. You need to be able see the fault in others but also be able to appreciate that the failure of a team is collective

43

What are the attributes of a good team leader?

Think of this in advance. Draw on examples from those who have inspired you as a leader – be it a teacher, a sports captain or a doctor you saw lead a team on work experience
When going through the points that you feel make a great leader, bring them to life by saying why they are so important and by using examples of times you have personally shown, or at least seen, these traits in action
Useful sources of examples that can be applied to the below checklist are Multi-disciplinary Teams (MDTs) in a hospital setting, sports teams or group activities, like Duke of Edinburgh. But you should have plenty of others as well
Great leaders are usually effective communicators. They get across the team’s objectives to its members in a clear way that gives people a sense of purpose
An effective leader reaches out to all members of the team and makes clear that he/she cares about the progress of all members of the team. They are inclusive
Organisation is essential, since managing a team requires being on top of exactly what needs to be done, when and by whom
Delegation is important. A strong leader knows his/her team members, what are their strengths and their weaknesses, and is able to delegate fairly
Ultimately, a strong leader takes responsibility. They will not place blame on their team or its members in tough times
Remember: use an example of a time you were a team leader or a time you witnessed good leadership to make your answer stand out
Common Mistakes:
Just listing qualities without reasons or examples. For every trait, make sure that you say why it is important and when you’ve seen / done it
Focusing too much on the individual leader. The sign of a really good leader is actually the ability to maximise the output of their team

44

What are the attributes of a good team member?

Again, you will need to think about this in advance so you can arm yourself not only with key traits but also reasons and examples
In advance of the interview, make a list of all the times you were a member of a team and tease out the things you did well – and you could have done better
It is very important that a good team member can take guidance. This is also an essential trait of being a medical student. Think of times, perhaps from work experience, where you were given feedback and took it on-board to improve your performance
A good team member understands their role as part of a larger team. You will often be working in a team (like an MDT), which is in turn a small part of a much bigger team: the NHS. Show that you can work for the greater good and believe in doing so
Dedication should be a given. This is also a chance to showcase a crucial quality. When working a week of nights, are you the one who pulls the team through or holds them back?
A key to being able to work well with others is compromise. You can tie this to lots of other desirable traits, like empathy
Common Mistakes:
Believing that being a team member is less desirable than being a leader. You need to be both, but it is important to note that as a medical student and starting out as a junior doctor, you will be part of a team more often than you will be leading one
Thinking that being told to do something different is a sign of weakness. Use examples of times when you were told to do something differently, took it on board and really improved your performance as a result

45

Are you a leader or a follower?

You should tell them that you are both — and this should also be true
To be a great medical student, who need to have leadership quality but also be able to take instruction and contribute to the greater good
Provide personal examples of times when you have been a leader and a follower to demonstrate that this is true, offering an outline of the situation, the rationale and the ultimate outcome
Leadership example: I took a leadership role within my school’s medical society. Attendance was low and people were not inspired to come any more. So I looked into some exciting topics and group activities online and worked with the teacher in charge to implement them. This led to numbers at society meetings doubling
Teamwork example: when I was playing football for my school in the cup semi-final, our captain asked me to play out of position in the second half so we could protect a narrow lead. I knew this would limit my personal impact in the game but saw that the captain had the best interests of the team at heart and that he was right. I played more defensively and we progressed to the final
Common Mistakes:
Insisting that you are a leader, thinking this shows more strength. It is excellent if you have leadership qualities but you also need to be able to take instruction over the next six years of medical school and beyond
Not having leadership examples. Some people have lots of teamwork examples but are shy and don’t consider themselves leaders. Think about times you really took the initiative. If there aren’t enough, work to develop these skills prior to interview

46

What Medical work experience have you carried out?

The important thing is that you have done as much work experience as possible. Medicine is such a diverse field, with so many different aspects and specialities that you should be really eager to see and experience as much you can
You should have kept a reflective diary of your work experience. Before interview, you should go through this and extrapolate the key examples, reflect upon them and come up with clear and succinct ways of getting across what you saw and what you learnt
Outline the type of experience you did, where it was and what you learnt, using specific case-by-case examples to highlight things like communication, teamwork etc. If you have multiple examples, give one of each
Example: During my time in the hospital I worked in different departments with different specialities including oncology, cardiology and radiology. During my time in cardiology, I witnessed an emergency situation and it amazed me how the whole team came together, under the leadership of the doctor, to stablilise the patient
Example: I organised work experience at my local GP surgery because primary care is such a fundamental part of the NHS and I was keen to see what healthcare in the community is like. One case that struck me was that of an elderly woman who spoke little English. The doctor was able to adapt to communicate with her in a clear and empathetic way
Example: I really enjoyed my medical work experience and working closely with patients. This motivated me to start volunteering in an elderly care home, which I’ve been doing alongside my studies. Working there once a week has allowed me to form some close relationships with patients and understand their perspective
Make it clear that you are not ending your experience after the interview. Say that because there is still so much to see, you’ve been busy organising some more work experience for the holidays
Common Mistakes:
Simply providing a checklist of placements you’ve done with no case examples or learning points. This will ultimately mean you did not make the most of the time you have invested doing all of these great things
Being closed minded. Saying things like ‘I’m only interested in becoming a cardiologist so I only organised work experience in cardiology.’

47

What did you learn from your work experience?

From each of your work experiences, you will have learnt many new things about Medicine. No two days, even in the same GP surgery or the same hospital ward, would have been the same
The danger here is almost having too much to say. So explain that while you have learnt an incredible amount, you would like to give an example of a key learning point from each of your placements
Example: During my time working on the wards in the hospitals, I saw the concept of a ‘multi-disciplinary team’, something I’ve heard so much about, come to life right in front of my eyes. Witnessing the doctors, the nurses and the healthcare assistants all working together to provide a seamless healthcare service, personalised for each individual patient, was incredible
Example: In the GP surgery, one of the key things that really stood out to me was the underlying importance of communication skills in the doctor-patient relationship. Seeing the GP deal with an angry patient and calming them down in a matter of minutes, really emphasised this
Don’t be blindly positive and say that everything you saw seemed fantastic. Make sure you get across that you saw the hard side of being a doctor, that you appreciated it, but that you are still up for the challenge
Example: throughout my work experience, I was also aware of the daily challenges doctors face. In every setting, whether it was in the GP practice or in the hospitals, the doctors worked very hard with very long days and faced many stressful situations. But speaking to the doctors, and seeing them overcome these obstacles, really inspired me. I understand that a career in medicine will not be easy, but after my work experience I am even more determined and motivated to pursue a career in this rewarding field.
Common Mistakes:
Not reflecting on learning points prior to the interview and having to do this in real time during the interview. It’s always apparent when this is the case. And, unfortunately, it means you will not make the most of your efforts. Keep a reflective diary
Sugar coating. The interviewers won’t think you are being overly negative if you mention some of the harder challenges you saw. In fact, they will appreciate that you are going into Medicine with your eyes open
Providing a list of unsubstantiated buzzwords as learning points. Saying ‘I saw the importance of teamwork, communication, empathy etc.’ without giving specific examples

48

From your work experience, can you tell me about a difficult situation you observed/had to deal with and what you learnt from this?

Start by acknowledging the challenges involved in being a doctor. It is a stressful job and you need to demonstrate that you appreciate this
From your work experience, you will have learnt that doctors are constantly faced with difficult situations and challenges
In these situations, a doctor’s ability to be flexible, use their initiative, and adapt their communication skills to the present situation is what makes them stand out
You should then outline a specific example, since this is what they have asked for, which you will have hopefully thought about prior to your interview
Example: one particular incident that stood out to me was during my work experience in a GP surgery, where the GP had to deal with an extremely angry and aggressive patient/ break some bad news to a patient. This was challenging because¦
Then go on to outline the actions taken
Example: I admired the way the doctor adapted his communication skills to the situation to calm the patient down/demonstrate empathy by relating to the specific set of circumstances
Finally, extrapolate the key learning points and how you can apply them
Example: this has made me value the importance of communication in the doctor-patient relationship even more. Since then, I, myself, have also tried to be more aware of the power of my communication skills in difficult situations and have really noticed the benefits of being flexible and adaptable with communication.
Common Mistakes:
Failure to be empathetic. Saying things like ‘the patient was being a nightmare’ show that you have not seen things from their point of view
Focusing on the negatives. You want to establish the challenge and how it was dealt with. But don’t say anything that makes it seem like it has put you off being a doctor

49

What qualities did you learn are important from the doctors and nurses during your work experience?

As with all work experience, this will come down to how well you have reflected on what you have seen and done
Make sure that you take note not just of how the doctors operate during your placements, but how the nurses and other healthcare professionals perform and how everyone comes together in a team effort
Remember that the ultimate goal is to provide an excellent, efficient and seamless healthcare service, in the best interests of the patient
There are some key qualities you are likely to have seen, so you can go through these, using actual examples for reinforcement
Teamwork/Leadership example: one of the first things I noticed was the importance of inter-professional working and excellent team work amongst all the healthcare professionals. I admired the leadership skills of the doctor to effectively lead the team, ensuring each team member was valued and had a clear role. In one case¦
Communication example: Seeing how the doctors and nurses were able to adapt their communication skills to a given situation really highlighted the importance of adaptability and flexibility in healthcare. In one case¦
Ultimately, all of these skills are crucial in order to provide the best care for each individual patient and this should be the focus of your answer
Common Mistakes:
Failing to notice any important qualities from the nurses or other healthcare professional and only focusing on the important qualities in the doctors
Giving a shopping list of qualities, without backing them up using examples and learning points

50

What aspect of your work experience did you find the most challenging/difficult and why?

Make it clear that you understand that a career in Medicine is not an easy one and there are many challenges that doctors face on a daily basis
Bring this point to life by using a personal example of a time when you saw something that seemed particularly stressful
Example: for me, one of the most challenging aspects of my work experience was seeing a doctor have to deliver some bad news to a patient
But then take the learning points from the situation
Example: however, I was really inspired by the way the doctor dealt with this situation and this really opened my eyes to the importance of particular qualities which make a good doctor, such as communication and empathy
Specifically mention that since your work experience you’ve taken time to reflect on this situation and have really made an effort to use what you’ve learnt to deal with other difficult situations/challenges you’ve come across
Another challenge around work experience is actually getting it. If you had to ask over a hundred people or walk into twenty GP surgeries to get yours, mention this as it shows commitment and resilience
Common Mistakes:
Trivialising the harder parts of work experience under the misguided impression that highlighting the challenges will make you seem less committed
Leaning too far the other way, and saying that seeing the challenges doctors face made you question your decision to study Medicine