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2nd November 2020

Dr. Arun Ramachandran, Consultant Neonatologist and the Admissions Lead for the Graduate Entry Medicine programme Swansea University Medical School shares some advice to help demystify the interview process.

Medicine is a popular course and with more applicants every year than we have places for, the admissions process is designed to be a fair assessment by which we can choose the best doctors for the future based both on merit and personal qualities suited for the medical profession.

So the big question is, what do we look for?

As a doctor, patients value our ability to connect with them. We have to listen to their concerns, be it physical or mental, and provide evidence-based treatment or emotional support as needed. Language and communication skills to develop rapport and respond to verbal and non-verbal cues are a key attribute. Examples of questions include:

  • How might you break bad news to a patient?
  • Why do you want to be a doctor?

Problem-solving skills are key to medical practice. Doctors have to be able to see both sides of an argument or an ethical dilemma. Whilst candidates may have a personal stance it is important to be able to respect other views, for example:

  • Parents are refusing to vaccinate their child citing personal preference. How would you encourage them to change their view?
  • What would your response be if a relative of a terminally ill patient asked you to help them end their loved one’s life?

Medical training is rigorous and demanding on the mind and body. We assess candidates on their resilience and ability to cope under pressure:

  • What strategies have you developed to manage work-life balance?
  • Can you describe a personal setback that you have experienced? How did you deal with it and what have you learnt?

Several studies have shown that the public trusts doctors more than any other profession in the UK. Insight and integrity are essential and integral to ‘Good medical practice’ guidelines developed by the GMC. You might be asked:

  • A patient discloses to you that her partner is beating her. How will you deal with the situation?
  • You witness an inappropriate relationship between a consultant and a junior doctor – do you whistle blow or keep quiet?

Medicine is a rewarding but challenging career. It is important to have a passion for medicine to be successful as a doctor. We assess if you have an aptitude for a career in medicine and have an understanding of what it involves:

  • What do you know about medical training after qualification?
  • What are the challenges facing the NHS?

There are two main styles of Medical School interviews – the MMI (Multiple Mini Interview), where candidates visit a number of one-to-one stations to answer one question at a time – and Panel Interview, where candidates have face-to-face interviews with two separate panels of trained interviewers.

Here at Swansea, we use the panel approach. Panel 1 consists of a senior clinician and lay representative and assesses your knowledge, resilience and ability to develop as a safe clinician. Panel 2 comprises an experienced academic and a medical student and reflects on your motivation to become a doctor and could delve into your personal statement including previous caring work experience.

In addition to the interviews at Swansea, we also undertake a written assessment in the form of a situational judgment test. In day-to-day medical practice, doctors will face multiple problems simultaneously in a time-limited manner so it is important that candidates can prioritise, multitask and delegate effectively within a team.

In this 30 minute task, candidates are expected to rank a series of events that could occur in a day in the life of a junior doctor and give a written explanation of the logic behind the ranking. We also ask for a brief reflection on what challenges you faced and what you learned from this exercise.

My advice to you would be to be yourself during the selection process. At Swansea, we strive to make the selection process enjoyable and a learning experience in itself for candidates – we want to see you at your best!

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