The path into medicine is not an easy one. Students must obtain the highest grades, pass the UKCAT exam, and go through a gauntlet of admissions interviews. While potential candidates for medicine study hard to get straight A’s, being ‘book smart’ won’t necessarily prepare them for the skills required for the admissions interviews that are required by most medical degrees.
For this reason, Dr. Hilary Murdoch, an experienced mentor, took the initiative and arranged for a promising young mentee of the Intergenerational Mentoring Network to experience the pressure of being grilled by medical doctors. One of the doctors was a particularly experienced examiner and has conducted admissions interviews for medical degrees around the world, so it would prove to be an authentic experience. To provide an official setting, meeting rooms at the University of Strathclyde were used to create the right environment.
Adrenaline was high as mentee, Omalade, went from station to station meeting different doctors and answering a fresh set of questions in a bid to determine whether she was suitable for a future in medicine and why she wanted to pursue such a career. The interview style is fast and direct with only seven minutes allowed at each station. There is pressure to answer well within the time so this kind of practice is essential.
One of the most interesting questions was related to the work experience of sixteen-year-old Omolade. She talked about volunteering in a charity shop and working as a waitress in a restaurant. She explained how her experience with the public could be used when dealing with patients and she gave some good examples. She was able to connect her recent experiences with the public to the medical profession and show that she already had some skills that would serve her well as a doctor. Omolade was also able to comment on what she had learnt while doing some work experience, organised by Hilary, at Stobhill’s Rheumatoid Clinic. In addition, she could talk about her observations of an anaesthetist at work which had been arranged through connections in the mentoring network. The valuable experiences gave her the chance to answer some questions within the context of the medical environment.
The most challenging questions were related to different scenarios and what the aspiring pupil would do. The challenge was that some of the scenarios had no definite answer but it certainly revealed the knowledge and beliefs of the interviewee allowing the interviewers to gain some insight.
When students go for their real admissions interviews, there are eight stations with a doctor at each and only seven minutes at each station to give good answers to a barrage of questions on a range of topics. To be prepared, one of the doctors suggested that it is useful to be up-to-date with current affairs and to check the news in the weeks leading up to the interview so that you can think about your opinion on controversial topics. In preparation for the interview, Omolade had gone over the personal statement she had written for her university application and thought about the key points that may be useful for the interview. She had also been reading and discussing newspaper articles during mentoring sessions which helped improve her general knowledge on current issues.
After visiting all of the stations, Omolade received feedback on how well she had done in the interviews and the few points she could improve on. Omalade said that she felt much more confident about going for real admissions interviews in the near future as a result of the practice interviews.
Experiences like this are incredibly valuable to young people who have the grades to study medicine but may not have the experience of being in such a pressurised environment with strangers asking questions that require careful thought. We are very grateful to mentors who go the extra mile and arrange authentic simulations such as medical admissions interviews that take young people another step closer to getting into the university courses they desire. Without the practice, it is possible that such an intimidating situation would cause students to lose their chance of pursuing their chosen career. With practice, our young mentees stand a chance of really showing their true potential.
Omolade is actually mentored by another mentor but within the Intergenerational Mentoring Network, mentors often reach out to each other to arrange work experience or practice activities such as the admissions interviews mentioned above. Mentees benefit most when mentors use the network and their contacts to offer the best possible support.
If you are interested in mentoring or you are a mentor who would like support to arrange practice activities for mentees, please get in touch with us here at Glasgow Intergenerational Mentoring Network.