Interviews

‘So why do you want to do medicine?’

This is the ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years time?’ question of all medical school interviews.

As I speak, universities are sending out interview offers to hopeful candidates. Interviews are scary, especially since you’ve spent the best part of a year applying. On the plus side, this is the final hurdle. So to help you, I have some tips to try and calm some of those pre-interview nerves.

Type of Interview

Know the type of interview before you start preparing. Most universities prefer to use the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) process as this is able to test the applicant in many areas during a short period of time. Needless to say, these interviews tend to me more stressful as you have to be able to know a little about everything (a bit like medicine). However, they are short. Most stations are between 5-8 minutes depending on the university.

The other type of interview is the Panel Interview. Panel interviews are generally easier to prepare for and allows the interviewer to gauge an accurate bearing of the applicant. Unlike MMIs, you generally can’t mess up. A mess up in an MMI may affect your score for that station, but there will often be 6/7 more stations to make up for the mistake. Panel’s are slightly less forgiving and a mistake can haunt the interview. If you think you are more of a chatty people person, panel’s tend to be stronger where as MMIs test your ability to be succinct and think on your feet.

Acting

Most MMIs for now contain an acting station. This is based around breaking bad news. As part of the GMC guidelines, they have recognised this is something all medical students should be able to do.

My advice here is to be sincere. The actors will often have a basic script which enables them to respond to what you say and your body language. I have known full-blown arguments to break out in this station.

Accept the fault. Don’t try to make an excuse for what happened, this looks bad. Apologise (throughout) and come up with ways in which you can fix this. The scenarios are non-medical (so no knowledge required – you’re applying to do medicine, not doing it already), often a pet which died while you were looking after it or a missed dinner reservation. If you are doing well the actor may accept your resolution or may make the scenario more difficult (e.g. the pet was brought during their kids cancer treatment).

You can move heaven and earth to come to a resolution. This doesn’t mean jump straight to the most erroneous option, but means you can be a bit creative along the way.

Preparation

Look into the university; what do they offer? what teaching style do they use (PBL or seminars)? what is the structure of the course? how do they teach anatomy? Show them you’ve researched the place at which you want to study, but don’t list reasons, show how this relates to you and your decision.

Ethics. There will always be an ethics question from euthanasia to organ donation to homeopathy. My big tip here: Look up the 4 pillars of ethics and apply these to your answer.

Work experience. Most of your questions will about why you want to do medicine or what drove you to this decision? Whenever using work experience as an answer, reflect on what you learnt and how this affected you.

How much medical knowledge you know will not help you. You’re applying to go to medical school, it’s pointless if you know most of the information before starting!

Finally, DON’T LEARN ANSWERS!!!

Have a template in your head which you can use but it is so obvious when someone has simply recited an answer. Most MMIs now will ask the basic questions in slightly modified way to see if you simply recite or actually answer the question.

Nerves

Nerves are a big part of any interview. There will always be the person who is relaxed and wants to chat beforehand. There will also be the one boasting about which surgeon they shadowed for experience. The only person who determines the outcome of that interview is you! Take deep breaths, you’ve come this far therefore, on paper, they want you. Most interviews will have a warm up question to get you going.

The interviewers know how stressful the environment is at interview. They will understand if you draw a mind blank, or mess up some words. It shows you’re human and will rarely affect the outcome.

 

I wish you all the best with interviews. If you have any specific questions regarding interviews, visit the contact page.

Work Experience

The one thing every medical school wants from its applicants.

Work experience can come in all shapes and sizes.I will run through some ideas for work experience and personal statement boosters to try and get your application near to the top of the pile.

Shadowing

The staple work experience of most undergraduate applicants. Shadowing shows that you’ve been in a clinical environment witnessing medicine first hand. Yet, personally, shadowing means nothing unless you’re using it to determine if medicine is right for you. Name dropping consultants or procedures into interviews and personal statements won’t help, if anything, it’ll just portray you as a show off. As usual, if you are putting shadowing into a personal statement make sure you reflect on it. Think back to things like ‘how did the multidisciplinary teams help to make the patient comfortable?’ and ‘what does being a doctor really entail? e.g. paperwork, multiple patients’.

Volunteer Work

Probably one of the most sought after work experience personal statement boosters there is. The longer you do it, the better it looks (depending on what you did). It shows you are willing to give up your free time, without compensation, to help others. If you’re able to clinically applied voluntary work (e.g. St John Ambulance, British Red Cross) it looks even better as you will often have patient contact and some clinical experience before even starting. As with any experience though, it’s the reflection that counts. What did you learn from the experience (other than you want to do medicine)? What other roles did you have (e.g. committee)?

Paid clinical work

I realise this is more likely for those going for graduate entry medicine or those taking a gap year. Hands on clinical work such as healthcare assistants, nursing home or even portering can help you get a real feel for the career you have in mind. In addition to this, you also get paid for it! Many healthcare providers require you to be at least 18 to work due to the type of work and insurance purposes.

General paid part/full time work

Just because something isn’t clinical doesn’t mean it’s not applicable to medicine. Many jobs require team participation, communication skills and time management, all valuable skills that are highly sought after in medicine. Working for a long time can help (even if it’s one/half a day a week) as it shows commitment. Once again it’s all about reflection. Mention roles you undertook and how this can help you in a career in healthcare. However, make sure you don’t fill up too much of your personal statement with non-relevant material. You have limited space and they do want you to show some clinical experience.

Hobbies

Often over-looked, hobbies are vital. If you play sports, or dance, or paint, or play musical instruments; put it down. Med schools are looking for well-rounded individuals, not just book-worms who get good grades. Make sure you can link to a career in medicine (e.g. first aider for a sports team) but is less important to do so as they know you need to unwind somehow!

 

Lastly, don’t rush your decision to do medicine. Get the right experience and know you want to do it. In addition, don’t leave writing your personal statement to the last minute, the best ones have thought and effort put into them. If you don’t get in first time, don’t be disheartened, you’ll have more life experience come the second application cycle. Good Luck!

Welcome to…something

Ok, yeah, I get it. Another medical blogger showing off to the world their incredible lives. I could try and pretend this is some amazing life changing blog which will stand out over all others but realistically it is not. So what is it?

It’s a chance to talk. Every medical student will tell you how amazing the course is, how incredible it is to make a difference, blah blah blah. Yes it is fantastic to have to chance to do something that one day may make a difference but that is not why I’m here.

I’m here to talk about the real tribulations of medical school. The isolation, the burnout and the subsequent breakdowns.

I am a biomedical science graduate who always had aspirations of becoming a doctor. In Sept 2016, I took my first step forward and started graduate medical school. Doing a 5 year degree in 4 years can’t be that bad surely.

6 months later, here I am. Documenting what has been and hopefully what will be one day, the career I’ve dreamt of for decades.

So strap yourself in, it’s gonna be a bumpy journey!