By Hannah Brown in Career development on Wednesday, April 1, 2009 @ 14:58
Barack Obama proved how powerful the internet can be this winter, but does it have its limitations, especially when it comes to medical teaching that is normally delivered face-to-face? Things are changing – January saw the launch of the first online PACES course, and feedback has been excellent, with doctors able to access over 100 expertly filmed, carefully chosen PACES cases from the comfort of their own homes without time pressures and the risk of a bleep.
As it’s the season of ST interviews there’s a lot of anxiety out there at the moment, and many doctors are looking to the internet for help. Many doctors haven’t had an interview since sixth form when they were applying to med school, and they just don’t know what to expect. Interview courses have always been a popular choice, but we know from experience that it’s very hard to decide whether to prioritise interview theory and teaching around common questions, or if just practising answering interview questions is enough.
The truth is, there are lots of medical interview questions that appear time and time again, and most of the time you can fumble around them as long as you don’t sound stupid, or worse, dangerous. The questions that you can’t blag are the ones that a good interview course should prepare you for: the history of the NHS, pillars of clinical governance and other horrors. Not only will you learn how to answer these questions deftly you’ll learn to explain the impact on your own clinical practice, demonstrating a deep understanding of the issues. The majority of the support available on the web at the moment is generic, and so won’t be too helpful in preparing for questions about the implementation of MMC, for example.
There are interview computer packages out there purporting to be medic-specific, but really they’re just generic interview skills repackaged and rebranded, and won’t cover all the intricacies of the NHS and life as a doctor that you know and love. It is important to grasp interview basics – how you greet the interviewers, how you should sit, what you should wear – but you don’t need to buy a computer package for that, any decent interview skills book should suffice, and be far cheaper.
There’s no internet substitute for some things, and the most important aspect of preparing for an interview is practice. Compile a list (or use ours!) of interview questions that anyone you’ve ever spoken to has been asked, and get your mates to reel them off to you while you’re on a break, in the car, anywhere! Try not to plan model answers and think on your feet instead – it’s the best practice you can get. Ask your ‘interviewers’ to follow on from your questions – if you mention that a clinical error meant that you lost a patient, in a real interview they’d go on to ask you what you would have done differently, you can replicate this when you’re perfecting your technique. Remember that there are no wrong answers, just stupid ones. Before you open your mouth take some time to think through your answer, and then deliver it clearly, with confidence.