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7th December 2020
Dr. Prakhar Srivastava, one of the lead senior tutors at The Medic Portal, shares some guidance on how teachers can prepare any aspiring medics in the classroom for upcoming MMIs.

This year’s prospective Medical School applicants face a unique challenge; a nationwide agreement between Universities to conduct Medical School interviews online, rather than in person. Whilst this uncertainty can be daunting, there is plenty that teachers can do to help their students perform at their highest level in these novel circumstances.

In this article, we will outline an idea for setting up practice MMI circuits, discuss the art of giving feedback and explore how the topic of COVID-19 might be addressed during this year’s interview cycle.

How To Organise Effective Interview Practice

Since this year’s interviews will be conducted online, students must ensure their preparation includes a significant component of online mock scenarios. Universities vary on whether they plan to use Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Blackboard, but our content team has created a useful blog post summarising what individual universities have confirmed regarding the interview platform of their choice. Students must ensure they are familiar with the platforms which will be used by their Universities of choice.

Secondly, whilst students may benefit greatly for the MMI circuits that we run here at The Medic Portal, a further effective practice could be arranged using facilities already available within a school. A few simple steps may be followed to set up a 5 station MMI circuit:

  • Liaise with the school’s IT department to set up a network of computers, all loaded with the same video conferencing platforms
  • Individual computers could be left in separate rooms – for a 5-station circuit, 10 rooms would be needed in total, 5 for the students, and 5 for the interviewers
  • Students may rotate through “stations” by switching their “virtual room” rather than a physical one

Note – some stations may require an additional person, examples including:

  • Role-play scenarios – examiners should ideally be uninvolved in the role-play itself to ensure they can focus on the student’s approach to the station
  • Patient-doctor consultations which a student is asked to observe and comment on

Ensure Students Are Receiving High-Quality Feedback

The concept of self-reflection is emphasised throughout one’s undergraduate and postgraduate training in the Medical field and it can be boiled down into three simple questions which can be utilised when providing feedback to students on their interview performance:

  • What went well?
  • What could have been done differently?
  • What factors were beyond their control?

Additionally, students can benefit greatly from a combination of verbal and written feedback, the latter being particularly useful. It must be emphasised that interview preparation is an iterative process, with ups and downs to be expected along the way and the aim being to improve the average performance over time.

Finally, we want to emphasise that feedback should never be dictatorial. Each student must be 100% comfortable with every word they speak in their interview because they are the ones who must go on and attend Medical School, should they accept an offer of study.

How Might The Topic Of COVID-19 Be Raised?

There are several ways in which this subject could be addressed, below are some examples which our team have managed to brainstorm.

Has the pandemic affected their motivation to pursue medicine?

  • How do they feel about the possibility of working where there is a risk to their own health?
  • Have they had work or voluntary placements cancelled? If so, how have they adapted to ensure they still obtained an adequate insight into the profession?
  • What are their thoughts on the political and societal facets of the career given the polarising debate that has ensued following the enforcement of lockdowns, tiered restrictions, and travel bans, all in the name of protecting the NHS?

Are they familiar with the scientific concepts related to COVID-19?

  • What is a virus, how do they replicate?
  • What is the difference between an outbreak, epidemic, and pandemic?
  • What is exponential growth and how is it related to R0, a number often quoted by government and public health officials?
  • Why were handwashing policies, social distancing practices and lockdowns pursued in the absence of a vaccine?
  • How do vaccinations work in theory?
  • How do we prove that vaccination works in practice?
  • What does the phrase “herd immunity” mean, and how can it be achieved?

How will they adapt to online/distance learning, given that current University students are receiving this in abundance?

  • Do they have any experience of success with online learning?
  • What are the pros and cons of in-person vs online teaching methods?
  • Could the entirety of Medical School be delivered online?

Don’t forget the basics!

Whilst we have outlined advisory points which are relevant to this year’s interview cycle, we would also emphasise that this year’s interviews will be more similar than different than the years gone by!

The questions being asked will still cover the common domains that we have been discussing at our courses and websites since our company’s inception.

Ethics, professionalism, motivation for medicine, NHS hot topics, work experience, problem-solving skills and communication skills will remain the key domains in which all students will be evaluated.

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