Interview Tips: MMI Roleplay

Medical school interviews can be daunting, and then they ask you to act!

The most important part of preparing for these stations is to practice them yourself, so that you have the experience of what it might be like on the day. It’s easy to get overwhelmed at the prospect but we have put together a useful plan of approach.

The bell has rung, and you have arrived at your next MMI station, it’s a roleplay. In the few minutes before entering the room, stay calm and think about the four Rs

Read

Read the scenario carefully, what are you being asked to do? Having a specific plan of attack for the type of task you have been given is very important in completing these stations well.

Examples of types of tasks include breaking bad news, resolving a conflict, confronting a colleague, apologising for a mistake etc. The best way to come up with these approaches is to practise with a friend, watch example videos and utilise feedback. When the station begins don’t be afraid to ask questions to the examiner before the role play starts if any of the instructions are unclear.  

Relationship

What is your relationship with the person you are being asked to speak to in the scenario, this will dictate your tone, demeanour and approach to the conversation i.e. a conversation between doctor to patient will be a lot more professional than if you are asked to speak to a friend.

Role

Following on from relationship, what is your role? Are you a medical student, a friend or even a ward manager – think about how people in these roles conduct themselves, you may find drawing on examples from your work experience will help get into character. The more enthusiastic you are about acting out the role, the better it will make you look!

Recognise – what will the assessor be looking for?

Communication skills

Perhaps the main element of any role play situation is your ability to communicate as effectively and as empathetically as possible.

Starting off well by introducing yourself to the actor in character, it lets you get into the scenario and signals that you are ready to start. Simply by saying “Hello my name is …, I’m a junior doctor and I have come to talk to you today” allows you to start off with confidence and control of the scenario.

Some general advice is to treat the station as a conversation, it is tempting when under time constraints to want to convey everything you need to say as quickly as possible. However, allowing the actor to talk and asking them questions will help you engage with the roleplay and will help focus the discussion if needs be. Don’t interrupt the actor and remember If they keep repeating a specific point, as it means you may not have addressed the topic as thoroughly as they would like. If you are struggling to think of what to say, don’t be afraid to ask how they would like you to help them.

Another way the patient actor may test you is by asking for something specific which you will not have the answer for. This type of questioning is about managing expectations and ensuring you do not make up an answer to please the patient. A common example of this type of scenario is when the patient actor asks if they have cancer, it’s important that you do not lie and say yes or no, unless you have been specifically told that the patient does have cancer in the scenario instructions. Instead, you would be expected to tell the patient that you are unable to confirm or deny that they have cancer based on the information available. You could offer them some reassurance and explain that more tests may need to be carried out to see what exactly is going on, but right now it’s important to not jump to conclusions.

Empathy

Some of the most common MMI role play stations involves breaking bad news, owning up to a mistake, or chatting to someone who is upset. This is because the assessor will want to know that you can show empathy.

To convey empathy, you must acknowledge and show that you understand what the other person is feeling by putting yourself in their shoes. You may do this by using phrases like, ‘I know this must be really difficult for you’ or ‘I empathise with your situation’. You may also apologise that this has happened to them i.e. upsetting news,  allow them to talk and feel heard. Other things you can do If the actor begins to cry, is to offer them pretend tissues or a pretend glass of water if available.

A popular station that can arise is the scenario which involves you talking to a friend whose dog has just died. These stations may seem unclear and there may not be an explicit ‘goal’ you must reach in the allotted time. The assessor will just want to see how you react and respond to your friend’s emotions and ensure that you are able to comfort them and offer support.

Some dos

  • Offer a listening ear
  • Explicitly tell the actor that you empathise and apologise
  • Think and act how you would like to be treated in the situation

Some don’ts

  • Don’t make their emotions seem invalid i.e. don’t just tell them to get another dog!
  • Be careful of responding to the actors statements with phrases like ‘that’s great/ awesome/ good’ as these can often slip out when nervous and what they have told you might certainly not be great/ awesome/ good!

Non-verbal communication skills

These are as equally important as verbal. Keep your body language open to invite the actor to talk to you. Nodding your head and maintaining good eye contact whilst they are talking will show that you are listening to them. Try not to cross your arms and face your body towards them even if this involves moving the chair before starting.

Information gathering and listening skills

William Osler once said, “listen to the patient as they are telling you the diagnosis”, though this was in the context of the doctor-patient consultation, this can also be applied to MMI roleplay situations!

While it is important to establish and maintain control of the conversation in roleplay situations, it is equally as important to gather the information needed to achieve the task you have been asked to complete. Allow the actor to talk, listen to what they are saying as they are usually trying to lead you in the right direction. 

Ability to remain calm and professional in a stressful situation

Although it is easier said than done, staying calm is something the assessor may be looking out for. This is different to being understandably nervous given that you are being interviewed, but the actor may try to push you by being unreconcilably upset or angry. The best approach in this situation is to show the actor that you understand their frustration and give them time to say what they need to say. Asking the actor how you can help is a good way to de-escalate things.

General knowledge of hot topics

Having general knowledge on some key topics is usually useful for roleplay situations

  • Legality of certain issues – these usually centre around themes such as confidentiality, medicinal cannabis, FGM etc.
  • Public health issues – problems associated with the ageing population, social care pressures or anything Covid related i.e. the vaccination programme, testing and isolation policies
  • BBC health is really useful for keeping up to date with issues both in the NHS and in the world of research

General tips

  • Introduce yourself to the assessor and actor
  • If unsure how to solve a specific problem or situation, a good rule of thumb is to inform the actor that you will ask your senior and get back to them as soon as possible with a plan
  • If you do not know the legality of the subject at hand, check with the assessor before the roleplay begins – they will happily tell you so that you can focus on interacting with the patient rather than stressing about the actual ‘content’ of what you are discussing
  • If possible, try bringing the scenario to a conclusion, this will be scenario dependent but making sure the other person has understood any information you have given them and encouraging them to ask any questions may help pick up any points that you have missed.

If you’d like to find out how to answer a very common interview question “Why Medicine?”, click here.

If you want help getting into your dream university then also be sure to check out our 1 On 1 Coaching Programme. As part of this programme, you will get in-depth help with the entire application process from whatever stage you join at till you get into the medical school of your choice. This is done through cycle-dependent teaching and the founder of the course, Dr Ashley Hilton is always available for any questions. You can find out more about the Elite Programme here.

Written by Jemima Jones

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