Even if you think you already understand it, you should make it part of your interview prep to know what empathy is and why it’s so important in Medicine.
As a Doctor, empathy and people skills are just as important as scientific knowledge – so make it clear that you understand this and don’t see it as a lesser priority. In your answers, make sure you focus on the benefits of actually being empathetic, instead of talking about the benefits of seeming empathetic. It’s a quality that Doctors should truly have, not something they should feign to ‘tick a box’ as part of the job.
Make sure you also understand the difference between empathy and sympathy, because this is something you could be asked about.
If you’re facing an empathy MMI station, you might need to role-play with an actor who’s posing as a patient or a patient’s family member. In this case, you should pay close attention to the actor’s behaviour and body language to make sure you respond to them appropriately. You can’t simply follow a pre-prepared script in these situations, and interviewers will be able to tell if you’re doing this!
See this blog for tips that will help you break bad news in an MMI station.
It’s a good idea to have some examples of times when you’ve observed empathy in action – perhaps during your work experience. For example, did you see a Doctor or another healthcare professional being particularly empathetic with a patient?
Or perhaps you might have witnessed a situation where someone could have been more empathetic. What happened and how would you have improved that conversation? Always remember to talk about what you learned, not just what you observed.
Even if you aren’t specifically asked about empathy during your interview, you can demonstrate that you have good people skills and are a good listener by the way you communicate with your interviewers.
Show that you’re actively listening by nodding as they speak, and remember to maintain appropriate eye contact and open body language. These points are still relevant even if you’re doing an online interview. If you come across as disinterested, distracted or dismissive to the interviewers, this won’t serve you well.
Have a look at the sort of empathy questions which could come up in your interview and practise answering them.
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