Preparing for the medical school interview

 

January throws those students applying to medical school into one of the most stressful parts of the application process, interviews! But, it doesn’t have to be. With the right preparation and practice any student can walk into the interview room with confidence. Our doctors who have experience going through this process have provided some unique insight and top tips into how to succeed at medical school interviews.


1. Show enthusiasm and passion to join Medical School

Interviews relating to healthcare are all about demonstrating just how much you want to enter the profession, and how determined you are to succeed. At this stage it's less about your academic achievements but more about your motivations for studying medicine and demonstrating this with your experiences of being in a clinical environment. 

Before you apply, you need to ask yourself, is this what you really want to do? It's important to ask yourself this question so you have a good and original answer to respond with during the interview. Dr Jones gives her insight into answer this question:

 
 

2. Draw upon your relevant skills and experience

You will have spent the last 2 or 3 years fighting to gain work experience in a wide range of settings. Now is the time to make sure you mention your best parts and what you learnt. You will have heard "quality over quantity" a million times, this even more true in your interview. You wont have time to mention your all your work experience so we need to find your best 2 or 3 and be VERY comfortable talking about them.

Good examples are times when you have evidence of someone (not always a doctor) demonstrating skills that you need as a doctor. You are looking for examples of excellent: teamwork, communication, leadership, empathy, knowledge, respect, professional behaviour and listening skills.

 

3. Practice makes perfect

There is no substitute for mock interviews and practice sessions. This is where you can make mistakes and learn from them. Find a friend, family member, teacher who can sit and ask you example questions. It will feel awkward to begin with, but after a few sessions you will start to refine your answers and become more confident discussing your answers. Speaking your answers out loud is crucial to confidence in the real interview.

 

 

4. Show that you understand the reality of what life is like as a healthcare professional.

It's important to be able to show that you understand what life as a doctor, nurse, dentist or midwife is really like. The public image of doctors’ work is sometimes quite different from reality, so your understanding of the job without work experience might not be as accurate as you’d think. The world of medicine is constantly spotlighted in the media – but it's important you can rely to the interviewer that you understanding the not so glamorous side to being a doctor that is often not portrayed. 

Make sure to talk to doctors or healthcare professionals, getting to know people who are doing what you want to do will give you a sense of belonging – this can be quite a powerful source of motivation. 

 

5. Finally - enjoy it!

On the day of your interview, remember to dress professionally and act in a friendly manner. Leave plenty of time to travel to the interview location, especially if it is a place you are not familiar with. Be confident when you walk into the room, smile and shake everyone’s hand. Finally, don’t rush to answer the questions, and don’t worry if you don’t answer everything! The interviewer is not there to ‘catch you out’, but her or she is there to explore with you your skills, abilities and aptitude to undertake a medical degree. Enjoy it!

 

Current Challenges For The NHS

 

The NHS system in 2017 faces a lot pressure for a host of economic, social and political reasons. This blog will address the main challenges the NHS faces including questions about how these challenges are being met and the new government's approach to the NHS. 

 

 

Current challenges

An ageing and growing population

When the NHS was created, life expectancy was 13 years shorter than it is now. The growing demand for treatment caused by the ageing population is increasing the strain on the NHS and its resources. According to the NHS website people over 65 are the fastest growing part of the population and are expected to represent 23% of the population by 2039. While this represents huge success by medical advances it also presents a significant challenge to the NHS as the cost of acute care rises with age. According to the BBC the average 65-year-old costs the NHS 2.5 times more than the average 30-year-old, while an 85-year-old costs more than five times as much. This is because older people are more likely to be readmitted to hospital and more likely to experience delay in transfer to other health or social care settings including their own homes. This is compounded by the rising cost of new drugs, ongoing treatment and specialist care to treat patients living with long-term complex conditions.

Lifestyle factors

The impact of several lifestyle factors today such as poor diet, smoking, being overweight and drinking too much are and will continue to affect health service resources. All four factors contribute to disease and even death, adding cost to the NHS. 

While smoking rates have fallen in recent years, the burden from obesity and drinking is on the rise. One in four adults are obese - a figure predicted to double in the next 40 years - helping drive up rates of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Obesity is currently estimated to cost the NHS over £4bn a year. The bill for dealing with drunkenness and alcohol abuse, which causes problems such as liver disease, is nearly £3bn a year, while the toll from smoking is slightly more despite the progress made in driving down the rates of smoking. - BBC

 

Medical and technological advances

Medical advancements save lots of lives every year, but push up costs considerably. It is estimated that progress in medical technology costs the NHS at least an extra £10bn a year.

Increased reliance on NHS services

More and more people are visiting A&E departments and minor injury units – which is stretching the ability of the departments to cope. A lot of the visits are unavoidable, but some are visiting because of inconsistent management of their long-term health conditions, the inability to get a GP appointment or insufficient information on where to go with a particular complaint. Winter sees an even bigger rise in visitor numbers with staff finding it harder by the year to cope.

 

What might I be asked about the current challenges facing the NHS? 

  • How are the challenges facing the NHS being met?
  • What is the new governments' approach to these challenges? 
  • Since more people are living longer and working longer – do you think all patients over the age of 60 should be entitled to free prescriptions?
  • What is your understanding of social care and why is it that we see a peak in admissions to A&E over the winter months?
  • What is your understanding of an ageing population and what problems does this trend bring with it?

There is a lot of information relating to this subject online and in the news. Make sure to read around and keep on top of government policies and declarations relating to this. 

 

NHS Hot Topics: Understanding The Charlie Gard Case

NHS Hot Topics 2017: Understanding The Charlie Gard Case

 

The situation of Charlie Gard is one of the key NHS hot topics of this year due to the legal and ethical issues surrounding the case.

The case:
Charlie Gard, born on the 4th August 2016, was diagnosed with infantile onset encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome (MDDS) by doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital. This meant he suffered from severe organ failure causing his body to deteriorate. After several months on life support UK doctors and the High Court recommended that Charlie’s life support be discontinued. This ruling came against the parent's wishes to take Charlie to the US for continued treatment by Dr Michio Hiarno, an America neurologist what advocated nucleoside bypass therapy, untested on either humans or animals with MDDS. Charlie's parent's managed to raise the £1.3 million needed for the treatment largely due to the impact of digital media channels. The battle between Charlie's parents and UK Doctors and The Courts raised huge ethical questions.

 

What were the legal issues surrounding the case?

  • In situations where the doctors and parents cannot agree on the best treatment for a child, the case is presented to the High Court. They ruled that it was in Charlie’s best interests to withdraw his life support.
  • Charlie’s parents also appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, but it was concluded that undergoing experimental treatment with ‘no prospects of success… would offer no benefit’.
  • Charlie Gard’s life support was duly removed and he died on the 28th July 2017, at 11 months old.

What were the ethical issues surrounding the case?

Autonomy - the rights of parents to make decisions for their children.

Much of the media attention to the Gard case has focussed on the rights of parents in decision-making for children. However, The 1989 Children's Act makes it clear that where a child is at risk of harm the state can and should intervene. This sees doctors oppose the decision of parents as was the case with Charlie Gard.

Daniel Sokol, a medical ethicist and barrister, says the case has shone a light on this issue. "It reminds us that the rights of parents over their children are not absolute. They are limited by what is in the best interests of the child."

Best interests

  • The High Court concluded that the chance of success was too low to justify the trauma that Charlie may have experienced as part of the treatment, and that a successful procedure wouldn’t have yielded a sufficient quality of life.
  • The decision was, of course, highly controversial. Dr Hirano, for one, argued that the alternative to ongoing treatment and care was certain death, and that a slight chance was better than none.
  • This argument then raises the question of where the threshold for what is worth attempting should lie – even a 0.1% chance of success equates to a saved life for every thousand cases. Ignoring the statistics, many question whether one can ever declare another human being’s life worthless.

What might I be asked about the Charlie Gard case?

  • What are the ethical issues surrounding the Charlie Gard case?
  • Should doctors or parents decide on the best treatment for a child?
  • Should patients have the right to experimental treatment?
 

Things to consider when applying to medical school

 

Applying to medical school is a difficult process and one which requires a lot of time and effort put into it. Medical school entry is competitive and most schools report high competition ratios each year. As such, deciding on which four medical schools to apply for with your UCAS choices can seem like a difficult job – even before you have written your personal statement! In this article, we shall discuss some important topics which you should think about when preparing an application to medical school


1) Decide on your medical school teaching style

There are three types of teaching styles in medical schools in the UK. These are:

  • Problem-Based Learning (PBL) - group work and peer-to-peer teaching using case studies and self-guided learning
  • Traditional courses - most similar to A-level teaching as you are taught in lectures
  • Integrated courses - a combination of PBL and traditional

The reason why deciding on a medical school teaching style is important is because they each require a different type of learner. On a PBL course, you will (generally) be in charge of your own learning and it is up to you to keep on top of your workload. No-one is going to be giving you information and making sure you remember it, so you have to be self-motivated and have good time management. Equally, on a traditional course, you need to have a good attention span, good at picking up information taught to you and be prepared for each lecture you have as each will require prior reading. Integrated courses generally are somewhere in the middle, so check with the individual schools to see whether they lean more towards a traditional or PBL style.

2) Apply to places that want you 

It’s important to recognise that we do all have the luxury of choosing the exact medical school we want to attend, so be strategic in your application. If a medical school states that they have a preference to a certain type of candidate, for example those who have a large number of A*s at GCSE, only apply there is you meet the desired criteria – as you don’t want to be in a situation where you have potentially wasted a UCAS choice.

Equally, if a medical school has a preference towards a certain teaching style and you meet the personality of someone who can thrive on it, then apply to them! By applying strategically you give yourself the best opportunity to get an invitation to interview.

3) Prestige in medicine does not matter

Even though some people may think that there are “better” medical schools than others, the reality of medical schools is that, generally, everyone comes out with the same degree. Therefore, a degree from Imperial College London is worth exactly the same as a degree from Birmingham. Every medical school has to adhere to a high standard! It is important not to dwell on the apparent prestige of medical schools when you are deciding where to apply – you should apply where you want to go and where will give you the best opportunity to be offered an interview.

 

4) What should you put as your fifth choice?

This is often a difficult decision for applicants. You must remember that by putting down a choice does not mean that you have to accept it. In reality, putting down a fifth choice can work in your favour as you may find a course you love or you could gain extra interview practice in preparation for future interviews. Have a look around and see what is available.

 

Why get hospital work experience?

 

How Important Is Medical Work Experience?

Gaining work experience is important for potential medical students as it demonstrates that you have awareness of what working in the health service is really like.  As well as demonstrating your enthusiasm for your career choice, they are key skills which universities will be looking for in your UCAS form.

It will also give you a good opportunity to develop your communication skills and experience working with a huge range of people from all sorts of different backgrounds. 

The placement should help you to:

  • Support your university application
  • Help you decide whether you a career in healthcare is right for you
  • Gain a realistic awareness of the everyday realities of life in the health service
  • Acquire knowledge about your own abilities and limitations

Support your University Application

University Interview Material

Interviews relating to healthcare are all about demonstrating just how much you want to enter the profession, and how determined you are to succeed. At this stage it's less about your academic achievements but more about your motivations for studying medicine and demonstrating this with your experiences of being in a clinical environment. 

University Personal Statements

Many students use hospital shadowing projects as the perfect material to use in their personal statements and applications for medicine, nursing, midwifery and dentistry. It demonstrates that you are so passionate about a career in healthcare that you chose to volunteer your free time working in a hospital, and learning about healthcare is the best way to show any university how serious you are about the profession. 


International Work Experience

It goes without saying that there are numerous benefits to gaining work experience, as this provides scope for your continued growth and development. Becoming involved in experience in another country can be even more valuable, as it demonstrates you have courage and make bold decisions. You will find yourself out of your normal comfort zone and become exposed to different ways of working and cultures.

Skills you’ll learn from work experience abroad:

Problem-solving skills

As well as learning about the local culture, including the language, customs and traditions, you will meet with people from all over the world. Working with diverse people is a key soft skill in the modern business world.

Multicultural engagement

When faced with a problem abroad, an individual must use their own initiative and employ problem-solving skills on their own. This requires flexibility and creativity, key skills admissions tutors look for in a candidate.

Adaptability

Students who make the most of opportunities to study in a new place strengthen their ability to adapt. They work out how to settle in, acclimatize and adjust to their new environment. 

Global awareness

Learning about the art, cuisine and history of another culture develops your understanding of others; something vital to working and succeeding in the global business world


How Else Can You Use Your Work Experience?

Your work experience is not just useful for university applications – you will find throughout your career there are plenty of ways your time on placement can help you. 

  • Curriculum Vitae - you will be able to speak about your medical shadowing on your CV, particularly if you are applying for a health related part-time job such as medical scribing or a lab assistant.
  • Showcase your skills - even if you’re applying for a job that seems unrelated to healthcare, you may find that your placement has helped you develop skills such as teamwork, analytical thinking and empathy that could contribute to your success.
 

How to use your medical work experience

 

Using your medical work experience 

You will have spent the last 2 or 3 years fighting to gain work experience in a wide range of settings. Now is the time to make sure you mention your best parts and what you learnt. You will have heard "quality over quantity" a million times, this even more true in your interview. You wont have time to mention your all your work experience so we need to find your best 2 or 3 and be VERY comfortable talking about them.

Look over your notes and find your best examples. What you are looking for in a good example are times when you have evidence of someone (not always a doctor) demonstrating skills that you need as a doctor. You are looking for examples of excellent:

  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Empathy
  • Knowledge
  • Respect
  • Professional
  • Ability to listen

Using the list find an example where you can demonstrate clearly how the person you observed/helped used the skill(s). It's important you write these answers out in a structured way, so use the PEE method:

1.     Point - Make your point about the skill you are talking about.

2.     Evidence - Provide clear and well researched evidence of the person using the skill.

3.     Explain - Link the evidence to back to the skill and tell the interviewer what you learnt from this and how this has helped you on your journey to wanting to study medicine.


Example:

Question - "Can you tell me about an interesting case you observed whilst on work experience?"

Answer -

1.     Point - "Of course. I was volunteering at a local dementia home last summer and saw the gradual deterioration in one patient's condition. The visiting doctor had arrived whilst the patients family were present. The family were very concerned and emotions were running quite high. I watched at the doctor demonstrated an impressive range of communication and empathy whilst examining the patient.

2.     Evidence -  I watched as the doctor addressed both the patient and the patients family. He noticed they were upset and provided an explanation as to the examination he was about to undertake. This calmed the family down and allowed him to focus on the patient. The doctor took a collateral history, spoke to the nursing staff and family. It was amazing to see a doctor control the situation using communication whilst gathering information from several sources. After the examination the doctor explained everything in small chunks to the family and allowed time for questions.

3.     Explain - As the doctor was assessing a patient with dementia it was impressive to see the communication skill used to collect information from a multi-disciplinary team to provide the best care for the patient. By acknowledging the family, providing information in small chunks and allowing time for questions also demonstrated empathy for the patient and their family. It was a real learning experience watching the doctor work and its something I wish to emulate in my medical career."

 

 

The hardest interview question to answer

 

Dealing with the "Tell us about yourself" Question...

It’s not even a question. It’s a request, and in the opening moments of your medical school interview, it may sound more like a hostile command. But it is perhaps one of the most common ways in which your medical school interviewers may invite you to join in conversation with them. How would you respond to this non-question question? It doesn’t seem easy, as I’m sure you’re well aware. Because it’s so open-ended, we tend to hem-and-haw and sputter out the first thing that comes to mind, and our response usually starts with, “Well, I was born in…”  Ugh!  No!  You’re missing the point of the interviewers’ request. They don’t care where, when, or how you were born; or where you lived until you were seven; or that you currently own a hamster.

What are medical school interviewers looking for?

What is the point, then, of this non-question question that so often gets us out of sorts? Well, that’s actually sort of the point:  they want to see how you respond to an unstructured situation.  Rambling on, creating one big messy non sequitur, or – worst of all – asking of your interviewers, “What do you want to know?” all point to the same problem:  a lack of both forethought and reflection.  Both are essential for being prepared to effectively manage unstructured or ambiguous situations. You mistake their intention if you believe that they really only want to get to know you personally. Sure, this is an opportunity to share personal information (more in a moment on what that means); but what you opt to share in response to the invitation reveals as much – if not more – about you as the actual details of your response. Let me provide an example, but one that is so extreme, I’m guaranteeing you’ll get my point.  Saying, “Well, I love to get raging drunk every night.” reveals something about you. And actually deciding that it would be appropriate to say, “Well, I love to get raging drunk every night.” as your opening line in a medical school interview also says something – far worse – about you.

Medical school interviewers rely on “So tell me about yourself.” because it is unstructured and open ended, and they know that how you respond will reveal not just some of your life details (no matter how banal or interesting) but also some of your character and values. Give some forethought to your response by reflecting on the personal qualities you possess that are most appropriate to share with your medical school interviewers.


Advice for Your Medical School Interview:

1. Share relevant information

Your medical school interview is a job interview; it’s not a first date.  Make sure the information you share is relevant to the primary goal of the interview: to determine whether you and that medical school are a good fit.

2.  Keep your response short and to the point

This is only the opening moment of the interview.  It should only take around two minutes to answer this question.  Like a good movie preview or a well written prologue, your response should capture your interviewers’ attention, draw them in, and get them excited to hear more from you.

3.  Take control of the interview conversation

Share information relevant to topics that your interviewers will be compelled to return to later (because you’ve given them a hint of something interesting about you that they just can’t wait to know more about).

4.  Practice telling your stories before your interviews

Remember that the interview is a continuation of a conversation that began months earlier with the primary application, the personal statement, the secondary application essays, and the letters of recommendation.  Of course depending on whether your interview is based on an “open” or “closed” file, your interviewers will already know a lot , very little, or nothing at all about you.  Don’t simply rehash your resume, but do highlight a few accomplishments or qualities and illustrate them with a couple of short memorable stories.  People love stories, but only if they’re told well, so practice telling your stories before your interviews.

You’re going to be faced with this question.  Don’t fear it!  Look forward to it, and be prepared.

Source: www.kaptest.com/mcat

 

Making the most of your shadowing placement

 

Getting ready for your first few days on the wards? We've written some handy tips below to ensure you make the most of your shadowing placement. 


1. Introductions

It's common courtesy to introduce yourself to your doctor and their patients, first impressions are everything! If you're shadowing abroad then remember a couple of greetings in the local language goes a long way.

 

2. Be Professional

Don't forget the obvious considerations that apply during your clinical placement, such as dressing appropriately, being punctual and being professional at all times. It will also stand you in good stead to check any learning objectives before you arrive, so that you can be clear what is expected of you during the placement and what you should aim to achieve.

 

3. Take Notes

During your week on placement you're going to witness a lot of new things, including procedures and consultations. It's important that you draw back to this on during your medical school interview. Taking notes is the best way to ensure that you don't forget any important information. 

Note taking provides you will a useful record of information given to you and can help recall information later on. If we look at cognitive load theory, there is only so much information that you can hold in your working memory at any one time and only some of that information will go into your long term memory. Therefore, note taking can help you write down all of the information which you might not be able to digest at that moment in time, but it is there for when you need it. Furthermore, by selecting certain information to note down, you are focusing your attention on what you need to remember. 

Strategies for good note taking: 

  • Think before you write
  • Keep notes brief and organised
  • Write phrases, not sentences
  • Link your points
 

4. Any questions?

Your shadowing placement is a unique learning opportunity.  It can be revealing to ask slightly more direct questions – such as what they wish they had known when they started, or what the best and worst parts of the job are. You may find it prompts them to give you a heads up about any pitfalls or odd consultant preferences you may inadvertently fall foul of. Furthermore, during consultations remember to wait until the doctor has finished speaking to the patient. 

 

5. Expect the Unexpected

No two days are ever the same on the ward. No two patients have exactly the same need. Each day brings chances to learn new skills and gain a wealth of knowledge, professional and interpersonal qualities. Remember to embrace the unexpected before you start, you will see some things you never anticipated.

 

 

 

Getting Into University: 4 Ways Students Should Spend Their Free Time

 

If you're applying for a career in healthcare you need to remember that your extracurriculars can set you apart from the other applicants the way numbers and scores cannot. In fact, according to the Princeton Review students who are productively engaged during the their time off school have an advantage during the medical school application process. Why's this? Well, involvement in extracurricular activities rounds out your application and portrays qualities such as leadership, dedication, and collaboration. It is easy to declare that you wish to help people as a doctor, midwife, dentist or nurse on your application, but backing it up it through dedication of your time and energy does much more to reassure a university admissions committee. 

In this article, we'll go through four ways in which you can spend your time productively in order to strengthen your medical school applications (and no, watching Grey’s Anatomy re-runs is not on the list).


1. Get Medical Work Experience

 A key factor in any med school application (besides academic requirements) is the amount and quality of clinical experience an applicant has. Most students gain clinical experience by volunteering in hospitals or shadowing physicians. Your clinical experience will give you an accurate and in-depth insight into life of a healthcare professional as you will:

  • Develop a deep understanding of the role of a doctor, midwife, nurse or dentist.
  • Understand the different roles in a hospital and how they work together in a multi-disciplinary team
  • Acquire an understanding of how interdepartmental coordination works in the treatment of a patient

Acquiring clinical experience is very competitive due to limited spaces available so its working checking out certain companies such as Medical Projects, that specialise in providing pre-medical, dentistry, midwifery and nursing courses.

2. Travel Abroad

Not only is traveling abroad fun, it is also an impressive quality in the eyes of admissions officers and it allows you to gain clinical, volunteer and language experience simultaneously. Becoming involved in experience in another country demonstrates you have courage, adaptability, and enhanced global awareness. You will find yourself out of your normal comfort zone and become exposed to different ways of working and cultures.

3. Volunteer

For those pursuing a career in medicine, midwifery, nursing or dentistry it is common knowledge that your portfolio and application should include volunteer work directly related to the field of study or career field. Many med schools have stated that it is imperative that the admitted student has several months’ worth of volunteer experience in their medical field, for it “demonstrates a consistent ongoing patter of passion for medicine.” There are many opportunities where a young, ambitious pre-med student can volunteer. Clinical experience is a plus! Working and volunteering at clinics and hospitals, shadowing physicians and even extending services to labs that need assistance really adds to your application and your story. 

4.Pick Up A New Hobby And Stick To It

A common mistake that candidates make during their application is to leave out experiences that don’t directly pertain to medicine. These extra-cirriciular activities still help shape the student’s character and interests. Experiences such as athletics, musical talents, and hobbies allow small windows into an applicant’s life and demonstrate a healthy sense of balance.

Extracurricular activities provide opportunity to develop interpersonal skills that are vital to being a good doctor. Qualities such as public speaking, communication and empathy are not learned from textbooks, they are learned from interacting with real people in real situations. An applicant who has dedicated years to one endeavor with true enthusiasm will catch the eye of admissions committees across the nation, much more so than an applicant who has only tried to follow a formula by becoming only marginally involved in multiple activities. Being passionate about one extracurricular activity demonstrates commitment and responsibility, which translate perfectly over into the field of medicine. That passion that you possess and express is how you will stand out on your application, during your interviews, and throughout medical school. So pick up a new hobby this summer and stick to it. 


School holidays often leave ambitious students baffled about how to spend their time. But, as you can see, there are a lot of ways you can spend it that doesn’t involve being quarantined in a classroom or with your nose shoved in a book! Research these opportunities and figure out which is the best option to fit your schedule. I know that some students are in a position where they have to take whatever positions they can get, but if you have the means and opportunities to participate and do what you love it makes the experience so much better!