What to do about the ever-changing team?

It’s fairly common for teams of doctors to be in an almost constant state of flux. It won’t be long before the next cohort of students leave university and join the workforce. That coincides with the regular rotations for doctors in training. Summer also (hopefully) means time off for holidays. Then there are vacancies created by ongoing career progression movements. Any temporary gaps created are filled by locums, who may be with your team for days, weeks or months.

These changes create challenges for both the doctors taking up new posts and the teams they are joining. There’s a lot to learn, meaning it typically takes time for new personnel to get up to speed. So, efficiency drops. Then there’s the question, “How do I trust people I don’t know?” It’s a stressful time for all concerned. Experiencing this again and again can feel like you are going round in circles. It’s hard enough trying to maintain standards and performance. Even harder making improvements. In fact, such constant transition risks creating a downward spiral if you don’t manage it properly.

Increased stability may seem desirable. However, these regular transitions are the reality of our system. So, the question is, how to turn these interruptions to our advantage?

Preparing for team changes

First of all, it helps to acknowledge the fact that none of this is easy. Giving someone a well structured welcome to your team takes dedicated effort and time. You know it’s important, but there are many conflicting demands. So, it can be tempting and quicker to simply do a task yourself. That’s easier than taking time to provide the information or support for the new joiner. But that means you’re working harder and under even more pressure. In addition, they will take longer to get up to speed and to play an active role. Everyone benefits if you learn how to prioritise and to delegate well. These fundamental skills help you make decisions – what to do yourself and what to pass on? – and ensure you make your choice for the right reasons.

An opportunity mindset

Next, it’s useful to adopt a mindset where you see both leavers and joiners as opportunities. At the very least, it’s your opportunity to ensure you do it better than the last time someone joined or left!

With the person leaving, you can review their experience in the team through honest conversation. What do we do well? Where do we need to improve? What should we stop, start and continue? Listening to their opinions is likely to help you clarify where you need to focus your energies.

Now, let’s turn our attention to the person joining your team. Consider what they need to become an effective team member. We explore this on both our Essentials of Medical Leadership & Management and our Advanced Team Communication Skills courses. What information do they need? What resources? How will we ensure it’s all available to them? Who do they need to know? Pondering these questions often reveals changes or clarifications which would also benefit your current team members.

Then, once you have new new team member in place, there’s another useful headline question to explore.

What can we learn from the new team member?

A new team member should provide you with a fresh perspective. This can be the case whatever their level of level of experience. So, you can take advantage of this. What are they noticing about working in your team? What have they observed in terms of patient care? How easy is it to work with the systems and processes that are in place?

Empowering your new joiner with ownership of their welcome plan encourages a proactive attitude toward becoming an effective contributor. Discussions around their observations and needs can then take place both formally and informally. This means everyone getting involved in creating the latest version of the team and building for the future. Such an approach creates solid foundations for an ongoing improvement spiral – spiral where joining your team becomes increasingly easy. And that accelerates the process for your future new colleagues becoming effective team members.

What steps are you taking to make it easier for doctors to join your team?

Stephen McGuire – Managing Director

If not now, when?

Let’s expand this blog post’s heading a little. “If not us, who? If not now, when?” Sound familiar? This phrase has seeped into popular consciousness over the years. Who asked this first? Ivanka Trump? Obama? Robert Kennedy? Hillel the Elder? Well, it doesn’t really matter. We should consider these questions now, more than ever.

Our experiences of the global pandemic forced us to take a critical look at our systems. We’ve recognised both strengths and flaws of our health system’s structures, their processes and the multitude of people who constitute the workforce. We can see things more clearly than ever before. We all want an efficient, properly joined-up healthcare system which is truly integrated with social care.

The initial stages of the crisis initiated an incredible burst of energy, creativity and flexibility. We have all revisited our values and priorities, everyone from politicians to healthcare professionals and the general public. It’s been a sobering and exhausting experience.

Here’s another useful quote to add to the mix:

Never let a good crisis go to waste.

Again, it doesn’t matter whether it was Kissinger, Churchill or Machiavelli who said this first. These are wise words. The open-mindedness and momentum generated by high pressure situations often create opportunity. So, great leaders grasp such moments and channel peoples’ energies toward constructive, sustainable change.

However, there’s a predictable stumbling block that we encounter. People cannot function at such high intensity, at maximum and over-stretched capacity indefinitely. Our bright ideas often turn out out to be overly simplistic when points we haven’t considered begin to surface. Knee-jerk reactions and quick-fix plans often turn out to have serious flaws when they face the test of time.

This means that crisis is typically followed by feelings of regression. Yes, we want the new normal, to get to that better place. Yet exhaustion, disappointment and complexity start taking hold and tighten their grip. So, recent headlines such as “Exhausted doctors seek respite before further NHS reforms” are not unexpected. These reports follow the BMA’s response to the Queen’s Speech to parliament, the annual event outlining the Government’s agenda for the forthcoming year. Plans for major reforms of health and social care systems were included this year.

The politicians have a tricky balance to strike here. No-one wants sweeping change at a time when they are struggling. But, at the same time, there is real risk that we lose the momentum and drive required to make the improvements that should be in everyone’s interests.

Closer to home

It’s unlikely that you have much influence over restructures – unless you are in a very senior position, or politically active. It will be a while before there are any direct ramifications for you. So, let’s consider your recent experiences and current situation. Think of your own role and your own team. What have you learned over the past year? What needs changed?

If you don’t take action on these points then you risk losing traction. However you cannot drive change without considering the people who work with and for you. Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg has described how emergency and regression are followed by recovery. Great leaders need to take people with them, supporting people through the journey or emergency, regression and recovery. So it’s essential to learn and refresh the skills required for this. Effective, sustainable change also requires solid management of projects which are both well designed and well executed. Are you prepared for this challenge?

So, if you can see the need for change, pause and consider:

If not us, who? If not now, when? Don’t let a crisis go to waste!

Stephen McGuire – Managing Director

Training options as lockdown restrictions ease

Updated 19th April 2021

At Oxford Medical we remain committed to supporting your professional development while at the same time protecting the safety of our delegates, tutors and partners. As the pandemic situation improves and lockdown restrictions ease, we are responding by continuing to evolve the services we offer.

What training options are Oxford Medical providing?

Going forward, we now offer three key training formats for you to choose from:

  • Virtual Training Room courses continue as normal with a large selection of dates to choose from.
    • These courses provide you with an interactive group-learning experience facilitated by an appropriate tutor from our faculty.
    • You participate on the course from the safety and comfort of your home or office via secure video conferencing software.
    • Our Virtual Training Room courses provide you with an identical CPD accredited certificate as you would receive if you attended the same course at a physical location.
    • Click here to see available dates for courses on interview preparation, communication, teaching, leadership and management skills.
  • Online Courses: Our range of courses continues to expand.
    • These modular courses enable you to learn whenever you want, wherever you want and at your own pace.
    • Subjects now include interview preparation, communication, teaching, leadership and management skills.
    • We also offer our online courses collated together in bundles which both save you money and broaden your learning experience.
  • In-person courses at locations across the UK are now scheduled to restart with dates available from July at appropriate locations. We describe the safeguards we are taking with these courses in the next section

We will regularly list additional dates for both Virtual Training Room and In-person courses over the coming weeks and months.

What safeguards have Oxford Medical put in place?

Courses where delegates attend together in a physical location will only take place in a format which is considered both safe and acceptable and within the latest guidelines published by the UK Government. These guidelines still have potential to change at short notice. So we have taken the following steps based on information currently available:

  • We have increased the number of courses which are scheduled to run in our Virtual Training Room as these are unaffected by social distancing requirements.
  • For courses at physical locations we have reduced maximum numbers and, on some occasions, changed to a larger venue.
    • This increases likelihood that the course can proceed while still respecting any physical distancing rules between delegates which are applicable at that point.
    • We will only revert to normal numbers if guidance makes it clear that this would be acceptable.
  • As a contingency plan, if we are unable to effectively, safely and ethically deliver the course at the intended venue then we will change to a suitable local alternative or deliver the course in our Virtual Training Room on the same date.
    • We always endeavour to give as much advance notice of changes in plans for running any courses as we can.

What if my course gets cancelled?

As mentioned above, our intention is to replace any course which we are unable to deliver at a physical venue with an equivalent version run in our Virtual Training Room. This interactive format provides a group-learning experience facilitated by a tutor via secure video conferencing software. We cover the same subject matter and the course has the same accreditation. You would therefore receive a CPD certificate of attendance which is identical to the one awarded for a course taking place in London, Birmingham, Manchester or any other city. This has proven to be a well-received solution by the majority of doctors whose arrangements have been changed in this way.

If, for any reason, you believe this is not a viable substitution for you then you will be advised of your options which will range from transfer to a date later in the year, partial refund with access to a relevant online course through to full refund.

We have been able to continue delivering excellent standards of service throughout the lockdown period. This has included providing appropriate solutions for doctors whenever plans have had to change. Read our unedited reviews on TrustPilot.

When will you update your advice?

We will continue to update the information on this statement page as and when there is any change in the advice issued by the UK Government. This will include our safe-guarding measures which will be put in place whenever we are able to resume in-person courses.

Stephen McGuire – Managing Director

Why do you get it right but others get it wrong?

As the restrictions of our lockdown begin to ease, YouGov have published some interesting survey results of the general population.

  • Q1: Do you expect that the public will or will not behave responsibly when shops, pubs gardens, and outdoor restaurants re-open? 67% of almost 5,000 respondents stated they believed the answer was probably or definitely not.
  • Q2: Do you expect that you will or will not behave responsibly when shops, pubs and outdoor restaurants re-open? 91% of the same respondents stated that they definitely or probably will.

What’s that got to do with doctors?

In 2018, we published the results of our study in BMJ Leader where we asked doctors to self-assess their behaviours within their teams. A representative group of over 200 doctors took part. This included all grades from foundation years to Medical Directors, locums and a broad range of specialties. Here are a couple of our findings:

  • 92% of participants indicated their personal commitment to team goals but 22% doubted their colleagues’ alignment to the same goals.
  • 93% said they are personally willing to take on tasks to support fellow team members but 26% believe their colleagues are unwilling to do the same in return.

Do you notice a similarity with the results of the YouGov poll? These numbers don’t add up. However they are good examples of the same phenomenon that leads 80% of people to believe they are better than average drivers. That simply cannot be true.

The illusion of superiority

These are all examples of the illusion of superiority. And this illusion is just one of many cognitive biases. Put simply people, and that includes doctors, will often behave in irrational but predictable ways. We tend to judge other people by their actions. We think, “You did this or that in the past so I believe you will act this way in future.” And we tend to judge ourselves by our intentions, “I know that went wrong but what I meant to do… what I was trying to do was…”

Modern healthcare is based on teams – hierarchical teams within specialties and multi-disciplinary teams across the board. Teams depend on trust for good, open and honest communication.

Facing into the challenge

These cognitive biases have always been present in human, but are exacerbated by lack of trust. And Edelman have described “a global implosion of trust”. In our study, 20% of Consultant doctors reported they had a lack of trust in their colleagues. If there is a shortfall in trust at leadership level, then it should come as no surprise that such attitudes spread throughout teams. The illusion of superiority, where people believe they do the right thing but others don’t and won’t, grows to the detriment of team interaction and performance. Lack of trust grows and doctors hold back from saying what needs to be said to each other.

So, leaders have responsibility to, first of all, develop their own abilities in having open, honest and challenging conversations, then to foster a culture where members of their team do the same.

What are you doing to develop trust and remove the illusion of superiority within your team?

Stephen McGuire – Managing Director

What makes a great locum?

What are the attributes that make the difference between great and someone to just fill a gap?

Locum doctors are essential for ensuring continuity of healthcare. They fill the gaps that arise due to unplanned absence, holidays, unfilled vacancies and help address any fluctuations in demand for care. At present, it’s fairly easy to draw a parallel between the locum role and the short-term redeployment that many doctors are experiencing during the current pandemic. Clinical competence is a must. But what else does it take to function well in a temporary position. What does it take to be a really great locum?

I recently discussed this question with two senior members of Athona Recruitment: Rebecca Coates, Sales Director for Psychiatry and Tanya Ironmonger, Sales Director Acute Medical Team. As an agency with a focus on quality, they were able to share their insights drawn from the feedback they seek from the teams and organisations they support.

Why locum?

Rebecca’s first observation was about motivations. There are many good reasons for a doctor deciding to take on locum work. They may be driven by specific family circumstances or to fit with a positive lifestyle choice. It may well be a career development choice. Some want to gain experience of working with a different patient demographic or try out a different geographic location. Some want experience of working in a different sized organisation, with different equipment or where there is opportunity to focus on a specific interest. Motivations matter as they inevitably inform attitudes and behaviours.

The proactive team player

Tanya raised adaptability as an essential requirement. Any reasonably established team will have developed ways of working and internal processes. The arriving locum must take proactive steps to clarify how the team works: who is responsible for what; what should be left where; what are their current challenges; how are they trying to solve them; and how they will support continuity of care after their placement ends.

So, we all agreed a great locum must be a great communicator. They must ensure that everyone concerned hears what needs to be heard – and that includes themselves. So, they must be able to get their message across and, at the same time, genuinely listen to their colleagues. This becomes a critical requirement if the locum recognises a problem, something which could be improved or is creating a risk. They must be able to raise issues and offer feedback to their temporary team in a constructive manner. In addition, they must know how to effectively escalate issues if they identify something which is definitely wrong.

A positive environment for a locum

We then discussed the fact that a locum’s performance is dependent on the other factors. Yes, as a temporary team member, they must have the right attitude, be adaptable and communicate effectively. However, the way that the permanent team welcomes and interacts with their temporary member is equally important. How can you expect the locum to know the team’s goals, processes or members’ roles unless it is explained to them?

So, the best teams ensure they welcome their temporary colleague and share this information. Their attitude is that this is someone who is supporting continuity of care, rather than a transient stop-gap. And they value the fresh perspective that the locum may have as a fresh pair of eyes on the way they are working. So, they ensure they review their experience together for mutual learning.

Development requirements

It follows that all doctors, however senior or junior, locum or substantive, need to become experts at forming and maintaining teams. These are skills which must be developed and refreshed throughout any career. There are clear benefits all round for patients, staff and organisations.

What are you doing to develop your team interaction skills?

Stephen McGuire – Managing Director

Oxford Medical are offering a 10% discount on any purchases made during February 2021 by doctors registered with Athona Recruitment.

How loud is your leadership?

What exactly is leadership? How do you interact with people to get things done? Is there just one “right way”, or is there a range of alternatives? Do you simply copy those around you, or have you developed your own approach that aligns with your personality and values? These are questions that we regularly explore during our 1-day Essentials of Medical Leadership & Management courses.

Watch this short video created for BBC Ideas by Dr Jacqueline Baxter, Associate Professor Senior Lecturer at the Open University and consultant tutor. It explores “the power of quiet leadership” and will provide you with some real food for thought. It’s is very relevant for doctors, especially in the current stressful circumstances.

So, how loud is your leadership?

Stephen McGuire – Managing Director

Need a course by a deadline?

Sometimes, deadlines seem to appear out of the blue. Sometimes, we know they were coming but have crept up on us while we were busy doing other things. And sometimes, we discover that it’s not possible to do what we thought would be straight-forward within the time available.

At Oxford Medical Training, we’re getting a lot of calls from doctors who want or need to take a course by a deadline. It may be for an application for a training post, for an appraisal or to complete a training programme. the good news is that we are running more courses than ever. But these courses are also booking up faster and further ahead than ever. We take it as a great compliment that so many are trusting us with their development requirements. Unfortunately, some doctors are disappointed to find that we are fully booked for the courses they want to take in time for their deadline. Does this apply to you? What can you do?

Solution #1

Over the past few years, we’ve developed our range of Online Courses. There are a broad range of subjects to choose from including:

These provide you with the opportunity to gain instant access to an accredited course. You work through the material on your own and you should expect to spend around around 2-4 hours to complete. We list the estimate times on the relevant course pages on this website. Once you have finished, you send us your Reflective Learning Statement or Workbook which you find within the course and we return your CPD certificate. So that’s a quick way to gain evidence of training with a certificate for 2-3 CPD points, dependent on which course you take. And if you want to study more than one topic, then our Online Career Development Bundles are an excellent cost saving option.

Solution #2

You can still book a course in our Virtual Training Room for a date that is later than your deadline. When you do this, you also receive instant access a relevant Online Course as part of your package. So you can complete the Online Course immediately and gain a certificate as described above. You can then also use your booking confirmation as supporting evidence for your application or appraisal. Once you have participated in the Virtual Training Room course with a tutor and a group of other doctors you receive another CPD certificate. This means you have two separate certificates as the Online Course and Virtual Training Room Courses each have their own distinct accreditation.

And if you keep missing deadlines?

Well, that could be a sign that you need to do a bit of work on your time-management skills! And we can help you there too because that’s a topic we focus upon in our Practical Leadership & Management Course for Doctors.

Courses are booking fast. So if you can see a date available for the subject that interests you, it’s better to book your place sooner, rather than later.

Stephen McGuire – Managing Director

5 hitmen and delegation by doctors

5 hit men

The winners of the 2020 Ig Noble Awards have been announced. If you are unfamiliar with this interesting alternative to the prestigious Noble prizes, the “Igs” are awarded annually for research and “achievements that first make people LAUGH, then make them THINK.” News media have followed the ceremony with a range of amusing reports. They include identifying what happens to an alligator’s “voice” when it inhales helium. Then there’s the Ig Noble Peace Prize. It’s goes to rival pair of governments for encouraging their diplomats to ring each other’s doorbells in the middle of the night, then run before the door is answered. And a collection of world leaders are now the bemused recipients of the Medical Education Prize. Their achievement? “…for using the Covid-19 viral pandemic to teach the world that politicians can have a more immediate effect on life and death than scientists and doctors can.”

As they say, research and achievements that make you laugh and then think!

Time to laugh

This year’s Management Prize is an interesting one. Ig Noble have awarded it to five professional hitmen who participated in a dark but comical conspiracy. Here’s a quick summary of the hit that never was.

  • A shady business man, Qin, paid a hitman, Xi, a total of 2,000,000 yuan to assassinate his business rival, Wei.
  • But Xi kept half the money and paid Mo 1,000,000 to do the deed.
  • Mo then sub-contracted Yang-KS for the job and kept a share of the fee.
  • And Yang-KS did the same by passing the job onto Yan-GS.
  • Next, Yang-GS paid Ling 100,000 to complete the hit. That’s just 5% of the original contractor’s payment.
  • Ling met Wei, the target, told him of the plot and they faked the assassination.
  • Wei went into hiding while Ling sent the “evidence” back up the chain of command.

Everyone’s a winner! It could be the skeleton for the mad-cap, feel-good movie of the year. But, as Ig Noble say, some things that make you laugh and then make you think.

Time to think

So, what does this remind you of?

Your first thoughts might well be toward the numerous healthcare related services and projects that are commissioned on a daily basis. A top-level person or body hands some big cash over to a multi-national who sub-contract work to another organisation. They, in turn, pass the work onto a franchise operation within their group which pays a local company of tradesmen to perform a specific task. Done well, with good governance, this can be an efficient and effective way to translate complex national or regional programmes into local actions. But there are risks. One is that cash can needlessly evaporate out of the system at every step. Another is when the person or body commissioning the activities assumes they are being completed to an appropriate standard. They’re blissfully unaware of the harsh reality of unfinished or substandard work.

Involving of chains of people, teams or organisations can end up with systems and ways of working that are costly, over-complex and fail to achieve their well-placed intentions. Take the appraisal-revalidation system for doctors as an example. Few would argue against the ideals. We must maintained standards and strive for improvement. Combining well-planned CPD with reflective learning makes perfect sense as the way to achieve this. Yet too many doctors find the current processes a waste of their time and effort.

Everyday delegation

You may, or you may not, have any influence in such commissioning or national systems. But, even if you don’t, the story of our five hitmen should still make you stop and think. At it’s heart, it is a tale of delegation gone wrong.

How often are tasks delegated to you? How often do you delegate tasks to other people? It happens all the time. It’s essential for continuity of patient care, for general efficiency and effectiveness. All doctors must learn to participate in delegation and learn to do this well. The best approach varies dependent on the abilities and confidence of person you are asking to undertake the work. It also varies dependent on the nature of the task and the reasons for not doing it yourself. Then there’s an additional layer of complexity if the person you are delegating to will in turn delegate onto someone else.

The need for good delegation occurs at the end of every shift, when one team must handover patient care to another. That second team will then handover to another at the end of their shift. When you factor in having a day off, there could easily be five acts of delegation before you are back in contact with your patient. Maybe more.

What lessons about delegation and continuity of care and can you learn from the story of the five hitmen?

Stephen McGuire – Managing Director

End of the specialist era?

The current system of medical education “places disproportionate value on specialism.” These words appear in the foreword to Health Education England’s latest paper on The Future Doctor Programme. And this thought is more than just a throw-away comment. Moving away from over-specialism is central to the proposals HEE have developed through collaboration with other bodies. The fact that our system is predominately staffed by doctors who have gained deep expertise in one area at the expense of breadth is identified as a key reason for its shortcomings. The need to see numerous different specialists, even when conditions are related, “costs patient time and risks fragmented care, duplication and waste.”

So, what’s the proposal?

Step forward The Extensivist and Generalist. I’ve replicated the diagram HEE have used to describe the T-shaped skill-set of this Future Doctor. The idea is that a system where more doctors have both breadth and depth in capability will be genuinely patient-centred rather than disease-centred. Doctors with T-shaped skill-sets are better equipped to manage multi-morbidity. They are more likely to see the big picture, recognise how and why one thing impacts on another and enable holistic management. So, their attention naturally shifts from treating a disease to patient care. Of course, there are still times when such doctors need help. When this is the case, their cross-discipline competence enables them to collaborate with others in a meaningful way.

And there’s more…

The Future Doctors described in the paper have more than breadth and depth in medical expertise. They are multi-faceted and multi-dimensional. They must be able to apply both the natural sciences and social sciences to clinical practice. Our Future Doctors are independent thinkers who are experts in managing uncertainty and ambiguity. They are confident in “resource stewardship… delivering quality care while balancing economic, environmental and social constraints.” The diversity of our population demands expertise in cultural awareness. They must understand the system they work in if they are to be able to optimise services. Leadership, followership and teamwork with the broad range of health and social care providers is essential. They must acquire knowledge about the general principles of scientific research. Then add expectations of excellent communication and teaching skills to the mix. The list goes on.

Many of these requirements are familiar. They are all present either explicitly or implicitly in Good Medical Practice. Yet, reading the lengthy list of “How Must Education and Training Adapt?” statements which appear in HEE’s document, the skill-set expectation of the Future Doctor sounds more like a multi-pointed star model than a simple T-shape.

Is the Future Doctor a realistic goal?

Going back to The Future Doctor Programme’s foreword, there’s recognition that, “For some, it will not go far enough or fast enough, and for others, it will feel like too much too soon.” The latter group may well include the doctors who have aspired to focus on specialism even before starting medical school. It doesn’t mean there will not be specialists. Just that their training and ways of working will be different than they are today. But there are questions over how to create this cohort of doctors who are Extensivists and Generalists.

Is it, for example, realistic for someone to develop the same depth of capability as the current specialist but also have this new desired breadth? How many doctors have the mental capacity to achieve both? Or is this breadth to be gained, to some extent, at the expense of depth? And, while we often think of steep learning curves, what of the “forgetting curve”? If you don’t regularly use what you’ve learned then you’re likely to lose it. After all, you can do anything, but you can’t do everything. So, there’s a risk that a longer time spent on broad-based training before specialism could be a waste of effort.

These are big questions with major implications.

What happens elsewhere?

Many employers in other sectors set out to recruit people with T-shaped skill-sets. But they struggled to find them. Such people can be few and far between, often found in the senior reaches of organisations. They have gained their combination of breadth and depth through many, many years in different roles, often across different organisations and industries. And their efforts at “creating” such people are typically doomed as their lengthy and costly development programmes lose direction. There’s always a high-risk point when the current leaders and sponsors of the programme move on.

But, if the idea of the Extensivist and Generalist approach is the key to efficient, effective, quality care, then these questions and challenges must be resolved. The Future Doctor must become reality. But how?

Sometimes it helps to look at things upside down.

Well, sort of. Rather than think about depth of expertise, let’s think about height. Let’s think about building a pyramid of skill rather than the point of the T drilling downwards. If you are building a pyramid, you will spend a lot of time on the foundations. Each time you begin to add height you will revisit the layers below right down to the foundations to ensure they are solid. You simply can’t imagine adding a new step if there’s nothing there to hold it in place. And you realise that a broad base with well-planned execution creates a more stable peak. Contrast that with trying to win the argument to widen the hole when drilling deeper and deeper downward as fast as possible seems to be bringing rewards.

Pyramid builders

Pyramid scene

Building a pyramid of skill is in itself a multi-faceted task. It requires excellent leadership, teamwork and communication. Planning, prioritisation and constant assessment is essential through robust management skills. It requires experts of many types who are capable teachers and mentors. Building multiple pyramids will require the commitment and co-ordination of everyone involved. So, the pyramid builders must optimise their own skills-set in terms of both breadth and height. The results will be spectacular!

What are you doing to develop yourself to play an active part in creating our Future Doctors?

Stephen McGuire – Managing Director

A new medical interview question

Doctor pondering a tough interview question

The pandemic has been a dramatic collective experience for our society. It’s the type of rare event where the lasting impacts are bound to be far and wide and deep. Healthcare is right at the centre of this, meeting unprecedented challenge with fundamental change. The NHS created field hospitals at surprising speed. Specialists took on unfamiliar roles. Many doctors and other healthcare professionals were trusted with greater responsibility. The need for genuine interdependence with the social care system became more obvious than ever before. Then there was the widespread transition toward digital consultations. I’m sure you can add many other points to this list and that’s before we even start to consider the impact that this has had on you as an individual.

Focus and purpose of a medical interview

Though it may seem like stating the obvious, the task for any interviewer is to find out about you. I’ll explain why this is worth mentioning shortly. They want to uncover your skill levels and development requirements, your attitudes and opinions, your interests and motivations. Rather than pose theoretical scenarios, (which they may well do), the most effective approach is that they probe your real experiences. The more recent, the better. So, with that in mind, a very good question for them to ask is…

What have you learned from the pandemic?

Can you answer that clearly and concisely? Then there are a whole host of underlying and related questions. Tell us about your experience. What challenges did you face? What did you do? Why? What was the impact? What do you now do differently as a result? Can you give us an example of that?

These aren’t really new questions as such. Together, they are simply a good example of an exploratory approach framed in current circumstances that every interviewee should be able to respond to.

Some doctors on our courses expect to be told what to say. But there are no stock answers for these questions. That’s because your individual experience within the global pandemic is unique. In fact, if the purpose of the interview is to find out about you, then there are very few questions where stock answers can be effective. That’s why our approach to medical interview preparation is to help you identify your most relevant experiences, then support you to communicate how they have influenced you to become the person that you are today. We believe that such awareness can open the door for you to become a better doctor. So, pausing to take stock and identify what you have learned from the pandemic is relevant for everyone – even if you’re not about to face an interview. It is likely to be a topic for discussion during your next appraisal or ARCP.

Lifelong learning

The best doctors are able to learn from their experiences. They grow as a result of their difficulties and failures every bit as much as they do from their successes. They identify areas for improvement and proactively take action, rather than simply collecting CPD points because they have to. Having the self-awareness to be able to provide evidence of learning and change will impress any interview panel, appraiser or supervisor and will be driving force for your ongoing development. Proactively revisiting reflective writing skills can open the door to achieving this.

So what have you learned from this pandemic and what are you doing differently as a result?

Stephen McGuire – Managing Director