While teamwork is not one of the most significant facets of a medical interview, it is still certainly important. As a necessary tool to gauge a prospective student’s capacity to work with others, stations that focus on teamwork are actually very common in MMI’s. See, apart from the universities that require portfolios with the application, there is really no other way to assess these kinds of things prior to starting med school. So how do we best do this?
Drawing upon examples wherein you worked in a team is one of the primary ways to illustrate your capacity for teamwork. Be original though. Try to avoid cases that might fall into the “meh” category. As with all parts of the application process, not only do you want to stand out, you need to stand out. If you can steer clear of your generic examples like a sporting team or uni group work, you’re already setting yourself up to be a little more unique. It’s not that there is anything inherently wrong with these examples (and yes, they do exemplify instances of cooperation and team-oriented behaviour), it’s just that they become a little common-place when most of us have partaken in team sports and uni study groups over the years. Spend some time whilst preparing for your interviews thinking of examples that you might be able to draw upon should you need to. Remember, stand out… in a good way!
The real important stuff
Obviously there are myriad different ways that someone can tackle these types of stations, with none of them being more right than any other, but here are 5 things that we think you should talk about in a teamwork/leadership station:
1) Talk about the role you had in the team.
What’s important to note about this point, is that it focuses not on the experience as a whole, but rather your specific role within it. This is your opportunity to go into novella level detail. Don’t get caught up in unnecessary details about the experience unless it adds substance to your anecdote.
2) Your impact on the team.
Make sure that what you say is said in a way that positively reflects your efforts, teamwork, and leadership. They are looking to see the dynamics of your role as a team member and as a leader - both of which are necessary to be a good doctor.
3) Your place in the leadership role without the title.
By showing yourself to be willing to take the leadership role without actually being a captain/manager/etc, you can paint a picture of yourself as a goal-oriented and dedicated person. This is where you can include subtle things like guiding the discussion, looking at non-verbal cues within the group, mediating differences of opinion, or connecting on an emotional level to help.
4) How you adapted for the benefit of the team.
This one may not always be relevant to your specific story, but if it is, do not forget to include it. It can be a simple side-note to what you’re saying, but can ultimately be really influential. Being adaptable is integral to being a successful medical professional, so this is your chance to show that. How did you get the best out of everyone if you weren't the leader? What did you do when things weren’t working? How did you resolve conflict when it arose?
5) What you learnt!
This is actually the most important part of the whole shebang. At the end of the day, the interviewer doesn’t actually care what you have or haven’t done in your life. What they do care about though, is how those experiences have shaped the way that you perceive and act in your life going forward. It is crucial that when relaying an anecdote or example of when you have done something, that you tell them what it taught you. “What I ended up learning from this, was that…” - it’s as simple as that. This is your opportunity to tie in your example to what the station is testing you on, making sure that you hit the necessary categories on the rubric whilst showing them that you have insight.
Be decisive. Be confident
All of these points will work in your favour as long as you are comfortable talking about them. They serve to show that you understand that some of the most important attributes of being a good doctor. If you have time, it can also benefit you to discuss briefly what you think might have been done better in hindsight. Remember, the purpose of speaking about a personal experience is to exemplify times where you have demonstrated the quality being tested for in the station. Show them more than just what happened, but why, how, and what you learned!
As always when finishing off one of these posts, I implore you all to practice. Think about how you would tackle these stations if they come up. Use this Medical Interview Atlas to help you practice different scenarios. Analyse your role in situations that you might discuss. Make sure you are confident talking about them. Don’t doubt yourself!