10th November 2020
Empathy is an essential element of Medical School interviews – and you should be ready to answer empathy questions. Take a look at our top tips for showing empathy during your MMI or traditional interview.

Discuss the issue of empathy in healthcare

An essential part of your interview prep is knowing what empathy is – you need to be ready to discuss this hot topic when asked. You need to know:

  • what empathy is
  • why empathy is important
  • how empathy is different from sympathy
  • whether empathy can be taught to Medical Students/ whether it can be learned
  • how it’s important in healthcare (aside from showing empathy toward patients)

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You may be asked to describe a time when you displayed empathy as a traditional interview question. Or you might face an empathy MMI station, where you need to role-play a scenario such as breaking bad news to a patient or having a difficult conversation with a parent.

Tips For Showing Empathy:

  • Recognise and understand the person’s feelings. Consider their point of view to work out what they might be feeling, and why
  • Keep an eye out for non-verbal cues, and respond to them. 
  • Maintain appropriate eye contact and open body language – so don’t cross your arms or legs
  • Give the person time for processing information
  • Show that you’re actively listening by nodding as they speak
  • Adapt your tone of voice to suit the situation
  • Acknowledge the emotions of the patient – understand that they may be feeling angry or upset
  • Check back with the patient how much more information they would like
  • Be as nice to the patient as it is possible, whilst still coming across as genuinely caring.

Examples Of Empathy

It’s a good idea to have a couple of examples of when you’ve observed empathy that you can discuss if asked. Think about your work experience: did you see a Doctor being empathetic with a patient? Did you witness a situation where someone could have been more empathetic? How would you have improved that conversation?

Practice Example Questions

One of the best ways to prepare for your interview is by practising questions. Our Interview Question Bank has over 100 questions that come with a guide for how to answer each one. There are also a number of empathy questions you can practice, too.

Test Your Empathy Knowledge

Once you’ve practised, take our quiz to find out if you are ready for empathy questions.


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