Some of the many interview questions you could face during your Medical School interview will cover the topic of work experience. When you answer these, you need to really focus on what you learned from your experience, instead of just reeling off a list of things you did. Read on for some example work experience interview questions with model answers.

The answer guides to these work experience questions have been put together by Medics who have successfully navigated interviews at top Medical Schools. They’re included in our Mastering the Medical School Interview Guide which you’ll get when you join a Medical School Interview Course. It’s over 220 pages long and has everything you need to ace your interview.

What Medical Work Experience Have You Carried Out?

When it comes to work experience for Medicine, quality is more important than quantity. No matter what you did, you need to be able to reflect on it and discuss the lessons that you learned from it.

Ideally, you should have kept a work experience diary. If you didn’t, try your best now to make a list of everything you remember doing and observing at the time.

Before your Medical School interview, go through your diary or notes and decide on the key learning points. Think about the qualities and skills of a good Doctor (e.g. teamwork, empathy, etc) and times when you saw these in action during your work experience.

Practise talking in a focused, succinct way about what you did/saw and what it taught you about working in Medicine. Use specific examples to make your answer stand out.

Example answer: “During my time at the hospital I worked across multiple departments with different specialities, including oncology, cardiology and radiology. When I was in cardiology, I witnessed an emergency situation and it amazed me how the whole team came together, under the leadership of the Doctor, to stabilise the patient.”

Example answer: “I organised work experience at my local GP surgery, because I know that primary care is 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 very little English. The Doctor adapted to communicate with her in a clear and empathetic way.”

Example answer: “I enjoyed working closely with patients during my medical work experience. This motivated me to start volunteering in an elderly care home, which I’ve been doing alongside my studies for the past few months. Volunteering there once a week has allowed me to form some close relationships with patients and understand things from their perspective.”

Common mistakes:

  • Simply giving a list of placements you have done, with no case examples, reflection or learning points. This will suggest that you didn’t make the most of the time and didn’t learn a lot from it.
  • Being closed-minded. Saying things like “I’m only interested in becoming a cardiologist so I only organised work experience in cardiology.”

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What Did You Learn From Your Work Experience?

Medical School interviewers are a lot more interested in hearing about what you learned from your work experience than about what you did on a day-to-day basis.

Go to your interview prepared with some key learning points from your work experience, and make sure you can talk about them comfortably without waffling.

Example answer: “When I was working on the hospital wards, 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. Seeing the Doctors, the nurses and the healthcare assistants all working together to provide a seamless service, personalised for each individual patient, was incredible and really highlighted to me the power of teamwork in healthcare.”

Example answer: “In the GP surgery, one thing that really stood out to me was the 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 also get across that you saw the hard side of being a Doctor and appreciated it, but you are still up for the challenge.

Example answer: “Throughout my work experience, I was aware of the daily challenges that Doctors face. In every setting, whether it was in the GP practice or in the hospital, Doctors worked 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 it.”

Common mistakes:

  • Not reflecting on learning points prior to the interview and therefore having to do this on-the-spot. Interviewers will be able to tell if you do this, and it will show a lack of preparation and reflection.
  • Sugarcoating. The interviewers won’t think you are being overly negative if you mention some of the 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. For example, saying “I saw the importance of teamwork, communication, empathy, etc” without giving specific examples.

From Your Work Experience, Can You Tell Me About A Difficult Situation You Observed/Had To Deal With And What You Learned From This?

Start by acknowledging the challenges involved in being a Doctor. It is a stressful job and you need to show that you understand this.

From your work experience, you will have learned that Doctors are constantly faced with challenges. In difficult situations, a Doctor’s ability to problem-solve, use their initiative and adapt is what gets them through.

You should outline a specific example of a challenge, since this is what they have asked for in the question.

Example answer: “One particular incident that stood out to me in the GP surgery was when the Doctor had to deal with an aggressive patient/ had to break bad news to a patient. This was challenging because…”

Then go on to outline the actions taken.

Example answer: “I admired how the Doctor adapted their communication skills to the situation in order to calm the patient down/ demonstrate empathy.”

Finally, extrapolate the key learning points and how you can apply them.

Example answer: “This has made me value the importance of communication in the Doctor-patient relationship even more. Since then, I 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.”

Common mistakes:

  • Failing 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.

What Qualities Did You Learn Are Important From The Doctors And Nurses During Your Work Experience?

As with all work experience questions, this will come down to how well you can reflect. During your work experience, you should have paid attention to not just what the Doctors do, but also what the nurses and other healthcare professionals do -n and how everyone in the MDT work together as part of a team.

Remember that the ultimate goal is to provide an efficient and seamless healthcare service, in the best interests of the patient. There are some key qualities that 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 excellent teamwork amongst all of the healthcare professionals. I admired the leadership skills of the Doctor to effectively lead the team, ensuring each team member had a clear role and knew what they were doing. In one case…”

Communication example: “Seeing how the Doctors and nurses were able to adapt their communication skills to any 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 professionals and only focusing on the important qualities of the Doctors.
  • Giving a list of qualities without backing them up using examples and learning points.

What Aspect Of Your Work Experience Did You Find The Most Challenging/Difficult And Why?

Make it clear that you understand 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 answer: “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.”

Then take the learning points from the situation.

Example answer: “However, I was inspired by the way the Doctor dealt with the difficult situation. It really opened my eyes to the importance of certain qualities which make a good Doctor, like communication and empathy.”

Mention that since your work experience, you’ve taken more time to reflect on this situation and learn from it.

Another possible challenge around work experience is actually arranging it. If it was particularly difficult to arrange yours, you could 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 made you question your decision to study Medicine.

What Did You Like Most About The Work Experience You Undertook?

This answer could be structurally similarly to your answer for ‘Why do you want to study Medicine?’. However, the content should consist entirely of examples from your work experience. If you are struggling for structure, refer to the GMC’s Tomorrow’s Doctors.

Under this structure scheme, you would consider: the scholarly aspects of work experience (i.e. did you find radiology particularly interesting?); the scientific aspects (i.e. do you now understand more about how disease presents and how that relates to cell function?); the Doctor as a practitioner (i.e. did you enjoy talking to patients or watching the Doctor-patient interaction?); the Doctor as a professional (i.e. did you enjoy the teamwork between healthcare professionals?).

Also, think about whether you learned anything about yourself, and perhaps your strengths and  weaknesses, during your work experience.

Common mistakes:

  • Interpreting the question as an invitation to just list all of the different work experience placements you have done.
  • Not putting what you enjoyed within a wider context of your decision to study Medicine and become a Doctor. This would show a lack of reflection.
  • Being unrealistic and claiming that you enjoyed every single thing about your placement.

Why Do You Think We Ask Candidates To Undertake Work Experience?

You may be thrown a curve-ball question such as this one. It is essentially testing whether you have thought about the rationale behind what you need to apply for Medical School, or if you have simply followed instructions and not thought about it any further.

Consider the challenges of Medical School: it is hard work and can be stressful; it requires an enormous amount of self-motivation and determination; it takes longer than other degrees to complete; and it is designed to prepare you for a life-long career.

From this, consider what admissions tutors may be looking for: a visible interest in Medicine; a strong commitment to learning; evidence of motivation and resilience; and an awareness of the downsides to Medicine.

Work experience provides an insight into how Medicine is practised and what being a Doctor is really like. Therefore it gives you an opportunity to reflect on whether it’s truly the right career for you and if you realistically have the skills and determination to do it.

Medical Schools ask candidates to undertake work experience to ensure that their decision to study Medicine is an informed one, and also to evaluate whether they were engaged enough to learn from their placements. Clinical placements are an important part of studying Medicine, so work experience almost functions as a taster for this.

Common mistakes:

  • Not recognising the link between work experience placements and student placements during your clinical years.
  • Suggesting that it is a ‘test’ of the student’s commitment, rather than an opportunity for students to really examine their motivation for pursuing Medicine.

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Reflecting On Your Work Experience, What Event, If Any, Changed Your Views On Modern Medicine?

Your answer to this question will strongly revolve around your personal reflection on your work experience and the insight you’ve gained.

During work experience of all types, there will almost certainly have been an event or interaction which surprised you or which went against your preconceived ideas. It’s important to reflect on such events and be able to discuss them.

Both positive and negative experiences are as valuable as each other!

Common mistakes:

  • You don’t have to re-invent the wheel or spot a huge flaw in the system to be able to make a valid reflection. Sometimes, the more specific and personal the example is, the more you can demonstrate awareness and insight.
  • Telling interviewers about all of your work experience and what you saw may sound like a list as opposed to genuine reflection. It isn’t about the amount of experience you’ve had, but how much you learned from the experience.

Give An Example Of An Interaction Between A Doctor Or Nurse And A Patient That You Observed During Your Work Experience. What Skills Did You Find To Be Important For This Type Of Communication?

Communication skills are extremely important in Medicine and students are often required to put them into practice early on, because many Medical Schools introduce patient contact towards the beginning of their course.

Briefly describe an example of communication with a patient that you observed during your work experience. You should spend more time reflecting on what you learned rather than explaining the scenario itself, so try to keep this concise.

Discuss the skills that the Doctor or nurse employed when speaking to the patient, or any other skills that you personally feel are important during this kind of interaction.

Examples of important skills for communication include some obvious ones such as eloquence, good body language and eye contact, as well as the ability to listen and process information.

However, qualities such as empathy are also considered important. This means that a Doctor should pick up on the patient’s concerns and react appropriately in order to reassure them.

In addition, it is important for Doctors to adapt their vocabulary and explanation to suit each patient. For example, you might need to adopt a different approach when speaking to a child or a patient who doesn’t speak fluent English. These are just a few examples of skills that you might give.

Consider explaining why good communication is so important in Medicine. You might want to mention some of the potential repercussions of poor communication skills, such as patients failing to understand instructions with regards to their prescriptions.

Common mistakes:

  • Focusing too much on the situation that you observed. That particular Doctor or nurse may not have employed a huge range of different skills with regards to communication, but feel free to discuss other skills that you feel are important when speaking to patients, even if they were not displayed in that scenario.
  • Failing to consider the different aspects of communication. Communicating with patients is not just about being articulate, although this is important; it may also require qualities such as empathy and the ability to adapt your level of communication depending on the patient you are working with.

During Your Work Experience, Did You Learn Or See Anything That Did Not Appeal To You About Being A Doctor?

Interviewers want to know that you have a realistic view of life as a Doctor. If you have managed to get work experience in a clinical setting, it is important to demonstrate that you picked up on some of the potentially negative aspects of a career in Medicine as well as the positives.

Give an example of a scenario you witnessed or an observation you made during your work experience that helped you to appreciate some of the challenges that Doctors face. Reflect on how this example might make life as a Doctor difficult or stressful at times.

For example, Doctors have to sometimes break bad news to patients or deal with patients that are being difficult. There are also other factors to consider, such as the record-keeping involved in treating patients which can be tedious at times.

Doctors also have a huge responsibility due to the importance of what they do, which can occasionally lead to issues such as medical practitioners being sued. These are all valid examples of why a career in Medicine might not appeal to everyone.

Consider concluding with an explanation of how you would overcome the challenges you described and why you still feel that a career in Medicine is right for you.

Common mistakes:

  • Failing to acknowledge the negative aspects of life as a Doctor. It is important to show that don’t have an unrealistic view of a career in Medicine.
  • Giving an extremely detailed description of what you observed during work experience. Interviewers want to see that you have actually reflected on what you observed and are less interested in hearing a list of everything you saw.

During Your Work Experience/Shadowing, What Three Skills Did You Observe And Could You Rank Their Importance?

This is a textbook question which combines evidence of work experience with awareness of skills that you should aim to build early in your medical career.

Doctors must work with other people, including Doctors of different specialities, nurses, pharmacists, radiographers and other healthcare professionals, so a good first answer might be teamwork. Explain what you observed during work experience, how it demonstrated teamwork and why you think it’s so important.

Communication is another skill you may want to mention. Think about any instances when you observed Doctors explaining a diagnosis or a procedure to a patient, or describing how a prescribed medication works. Or, for example, did you come across a Doctor on the wards teaching medical students in a particularly engaging manner?

Ultimately, there are many skills that you should have picked up from your work experience. Try to have three skills in mind, in case you’re asked a question like this where you need to narrow them down. Ensure that you are able to substantiate each skill comfortably and with a certain degree of specificity.

Common mistakes:

  • Getting stuck on the ranking part of the question. There is no real right or wrong answer when it comes to the ranking, unless you include a skill which is totally irrelevant!
  • Failing to substantiate each skill and back it up with good examples specific to your experience.

How Did Your Work Experience Help You Confirm Your Desire To Pursue A Career In Medicine?

To answer this question, it’s vital that you not only discuss the positive aspects of Medicine that you recognised, but also demonstrate that you have a realistic insight into the profession.

This is because you don’t want to give a completely scripted answer where you sing the praises of Medicine in an unrealistic way. Keep it genuine and you will come across as a much more favourable candidate!

Balance your answer with a degree of altruism, and try to include some unique examples.

Common mistakes:

  • Hearing the words “work experience” and automatically giving lots of examples of the work experience placements you did. You need to discuss what your experience taught you about Medicine and how it cemented your decision to apply for Medical School.
  • Claiming that you were already 100% determined to apply for Medicine before your work experience, so there was no need for the work experience to convince you.

After Your Work Experience, How Did Your View On The Medical Profession In Real Life Compare To That Depicted By The Media?

In these types of questions, giving specific examples from both sides will make your answer more structured and organised.

‘Media’ is a very broad term – therefore your examples could range from the news to tabloids and could also include radio programmes or advertisements.

The depiction of Doctors in the media can usually be categorised into two extremes. They are either pictured as superheroes who can seemingly solve any problem, or described as being incompetent and neglectful, which is usually the case in news reports about medical lawsuits. You could acknowledge both ends of the spectrum in your answer, or only choose one side to discuss due to time constraints at the interview.

This could also be a good time to bring in recent news that you have read and explore whether Doctors were depicted realistically.

Answering this is also a good opportunity to demonstrate to your interviewers that you are realistic about a career in Medicine. For example, you could mention something that you learned from your placement about the realities of working in Medicine.

Example answer: “Watching a Doctor needing to break bad news to a patient while also being extremely busy in a stressful environment opened my eyes to the importance of particular qualities that make a good Doctor, such as communication, patience and empathy.”

Common mistakes:

  • Being overly negative when talking about the profession. For example, instead of saying “Doctors have absolutely no time to rest in real life”, you could say “talking to one of the Junior Doctors, they mentioned how it could be difficult to find time to rest during very busy days, but that it was important in order to do a good job”.

Tell Me About The Roles Of The Allied Health Professionals That You Met

This question is looking at whether you are aware of the various roles of Allied Health professionals involved in looking after patients. After all, Doctors are not the only member of the team, nor the most important. In your answer, you want to demonstrate that you are aware of this fact, giving examples of how you saw the whole medical team working together to look after a patient.

Link your answer to times during your work experience when you saw different Allied Health professionals in action. Always be positive, highlight their importance to the multidisciplinary team, and explain how all team members are essential in providing excellent patient care.

Common mistakes:

  • Not being aware of Allied Health professionals and their roles.
  • Seeming as if you don’t appreciate the work that Allied Health professionals do.
  • Not having any examples from your work experience.
  • Being unable to describe a multidisciplinary team.

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