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Author: Holly M

Third-year medical student

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Can COVID-19 come up in my medical school interview?

The COVID-19 pandemic is a huge topic and has had a significant impact on the NHS, doctors, public health and global health. Because of that, it could very easily come up in medical school interviews.

Read up on reliable sources and form your own opinion

You need to make sure you have thought about this topic in reasonable detail. Make sure you’re reading up and using reliable sources regularly so that you stay up-to-date.

Use your reading to help you form your own reasoned opinions, as well as being able to see the other side of a discussion. That way, you come across as being well-read and balanced at the interview.

Keep a journal

I would recommend keeping a journal or a blog and writing down your thoughts about the pandemic and the articles you have read. You should reference the articles you have read so that you can go back to them before interviews if you need to refresh yourself.

Practice the questions about the pandemic

Closer to the interviews, practise questions about the pandemic, which you think might come up with friends, teachers and family. Get them to write feedback as you answer their questions. This way, you can see which aspects worked well and included reflection, and which bits didn’t make as much sense, or might require some more thinking through.

COVID-19 and your work experience

The pandemic could well have affected the opportunities you had to do work experience and volunteer. You need to be able to talk honestly about this and make sure that you tried to do other things instead to help you with your application to medical school.

Make the most of your experience

It’s great if you have managed to do some volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic. Make sure you make the most of this experience and reflect on this volunteering whilst you are doing it. Perhaps you can reflect on the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the people you are volunteering with or how the pandemic has brought to the fore social inequalities that affect the publics’ health.

Take advantage of schemes such as the Royal College of GPs online work experience. This will show that you are motivated, committed and willing to make the best of situations and do the utmost that you can to be prepared for medical school.

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Mock Interviews (MMI) – A practice run for your medical school interview

Personal experience with COVID-19

I understand that this pandemic could have affected you or your family personally. It could be a difficult topic for you to talk about, and you could be dreading it coming up as a topic during your medical school interview.

I found myself in a similar situation during one of my interviews. I was unaware that the topic was about to be discussed until I was already in the interview, and it did take me by surprise. At first, I did feel a little nervous about having to discuss this topic and having to stay professional. However, I think I performed quite well in this station because of my personal insight and experience.

Practice and be honest

Because the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to come up, I would practice beforehand: think about it, talk around the topic with friends, family and teachers, and try and predict what questions could come up.

Obviously, everybody preparing for a medical school interview should do this. But I would especially make time for this if you think you might have an emotional response or feel uneasy discussing it in your interview. During the interview itself, I would be honest with the interviewer that this is a personal topic to you, try to stay calm and take pauses to think about what you would like to say.

Remember that you are in a unique situation and do have some insightful things to say, your reflections could make you stand out from other applicants, and the interviewer is on your side.

What type of questions they may ask about COVID-19?

There are a variety of different ways that COVID-19 could come up in medical school interviews. Be prepared for the fact that it probably will, but don’t be shocked or put off if it comes up in different format or question to what you have practised. Make sure you adjust your answer and ideas to fit the question you are being asked, and you will be fine.

COVID-19 and NHS

You could be asked about how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the NHS and healthcare in this country. There are already some articles available about this on our website, and these are worth reading through. I would take notes on them and then research further the ideas and suggestions you find particularly interesting.

Take the time to research further, and also compare the UK’s response to other countries and responses to previous pandemics, e.g. SARS. You will look like a well prepared and well-read candidate as well as having more flexibility and scope to talk around the subject and answer their questions more fully.

Your view on public health medicine during COVID-19

There could be stations asking about your views on public health medicine and its role in our society. This is looking at the importance of public health doctors in the recent COVID-19 pandemic. They have been crucial in conveying information to the public about symptoms, what the virus is, how it works, people who are at risk, and how to reduce transmission.

I would emphasise the importance of balancing informing the public in an easy to understand, clear and simple way whilst also conveying the importance of heeding this advice and seriousness of the virus without overly scaring the public.

You could also discuss the role of epidemiology and its importance in understanding numbers in pandemics. Take some time to read up about these medical specialities as they could easily come up in the interview.

COVID-19 and health inequalities 

Health inequalities could also be discussed at your medical school interviews. It is already known that if you are born in particular areas in the UK, you are more likely to die young, have a worse quality of life and be more at risk of certain health conditions. Unfortunately, often these places are more likely to have recruitment shortages of GPs and other health professionals, which further compounds the problem.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the extent of these inequalities to the public eye. It highlighted how people of different races are more or less likely to be affected by COVID-19. Have a read online on the Kingsfund website at what they have to say about health inequalities, and also ‘public health matters’ a UK GOV website.

How and why

In preparation for your interview, I would reflect on the seriousness of these inequalities and their implications for doctors. It is worth thinking about why these inequalities might have arisen (the answers are always multifactorial) and how COVID-19 provides us with an opportunity to address and rectify this.

Bring your own ideas

Research what previous interventions have been done to try and lessen health inequalities: do you think we should continue with these or reinstate discontinued ones? What new measures could we try?

This is an excellent topic to bring up in medical school interviews, as it shows you understand being a doctor is about more than just a patient having an illness and curing the illness. Many social factors influence health and doctors have a role to play in helping reduce these inequalities.

Questions about ethics and law

An ethics and law style station or question could come up in your medical school interview. This could potentially be covering controversial topics about the COVID-19 pandemic, such as ventilator shortages, automatic DNARs and PPE shortages.

It’s okay if you have a strong opinion about this, it’s good to be true to yourself and honest in your interview, but make sure you show an understanding and awareness of the other side of the argument and pros and cons of this.

Present the best you at interview – Mock Interviews (MMI)

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