The NHS Interview : Questions and Answers

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NHS interview questions and tips for doctors

Congrats on scoring an interview in the NHS! Now the tension that plagues you is just what you’ll have to say or what questions you’ll have to answer in your NHS interview in order to sway the consultants sitting on your panel in your favour. Let’s discuss some tips and techniques so that you can come out of that hot seat with a job.

In The Interview : Part 1 of 3, it was discussed how to get to this stage starting from getting an interview call to actually facing one. We will discuss that here.

First and foremost: keep it short, keep it simple, keep it sweet.

What are the potential questions your NHS interview could have?

  • Take me through your CV.
  • Tell me about yourself.

Take me through your CV

You might be thinking to yourself, what is the point of this question? They have my CV / NHS profile in front of them! No. It is a standard question to assess a candidate’s own idea about themselves, thus the way you answer this very first question speaks volumes about how confident and determined you are.

Now what’s the best way to respond?

Always maintain a structure in answering questions in an interview, be it in the NHS or wherever. That way you can keep track of what you are saying as well as you don’t go into a tangent and start talking about which you were not asked. We will be discussing these patterns throughout the post.

The question in discussion “Take me through your CV” – can start with your name, as that’s natural when you are introducing yourself to someone. Then start to follow the structure. The first structure is known as CAMP.

  • C = Clinical
  • A = Academic
  • M = Management
  • P = Personal

Clinical

Start with the last place that you’ve worked at, including your job title, duties, and responsibilities. Remember, no one likes long, dragged-out answers to questions that could be answered in a few words. So you don’t need to go at length how awesome it was working there, or how supportive your consultant and colleagues were. No.

In short, discuss what your responsibilities were and why you liked it there. Always try to keep your clinical experiences patient-centred. For example, you may have liked medicine as it requires a lot of communication with patients, or surgery as it requires precision and calmness.

After you are done talking about one job, discuss any previous jobs if its related to the post that you’ve applied for, or if it is medically related and in your CV.

Academic

This question isn’t only asking about how much you have studied, but also how much you have helped others to study. You can briefly state any papers that you have written, or relevant post graduate qualifications you have or courses you have done. And importantly any teaching that you have done. They really appreciate doctors with a positive attitude towards teaching. I am pretty sure we all have helped our juniors in medical colleges one way or another. Be it the ward when you were an intern and teaching final years how to palpate the abdomen or over a cup of tea to a bunch of juniors how to talk about management of acute cholecystitis. These are informal teaching experiences, and as I have said I am sure we have all been some part of it somehow. You can talk about this, and mention how it helped you too.

Management

Again, this is not about managing a patient rather how you manage your surroundings. If you have worked in a team, talk about how was it like. If you worked under pressure or in a lot of rush, talk about how you managed it.

In all the cases a candidate is preferred over others if they work well in a team and they can handle working under pressure. Also it may include if you have taken part in any audit or any events that you were a part of the organizing committee.

Personal

End your answer with a personal touch that you may have mentioned in your CV as hobby. Also may be what you do in your leisure. You may like to spend time in social media, or watch movies or listen to music or play some sports, almost anything that makes you you.

To summarize

You can practice answer to this question by following the ‘Job description & Person specification’ in the job advert. I highly suggest you do that, because if you include those in your answer it shows a commitment from your part. Also, please make sure to not sound like you have memorized anything, rather sound as conversational as you can, just like your PLAB 2.

Now let’s see where else you can utilize this CAMP pattern of answering.

Why do you want to work in this post/specialty?

C = Mix of acute and chronic cases, involves prevention as well as treatment in the case of most medical specialties; the technological aspect, in that you get an immediate result from work as well as having the chance to work with chronic patients too in the case of most surgical specialties
A= Good opportunities for research and teaching
M= Mix of independent and team work
P= The ‘high’ of working under pressure (surgery, emergency medicine), or the challenge of dealing with difficult and sensitive situations


Remember, it’s very important that you be truthful about the reasons that you are mentioning. Nobody said it is mandatory to mention reasons from all the categories. If you do that, you may invite questions that you are not truly enthusiastic or well versed about. Enthusiasm easily comes in your answers when you are being truthful. So, you can choose two clinical reasons, one academic or one clinical, or one management and one personal reason.

Be yourself!

Here are some other examples of questions where the CAMP works:

  • Why do you want to work in this hospital?
  • What’s your biggest achievement?
  • Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
  • What skills do you think you need to improve/work on?

Any other background & motivation questions in an NHS interview can be answered following the CAMP structure.

NHS Interview Questions asking for an example

Now, in the instance you are asked a direct question that requires some thought, how will you approach it? There may be occasions where you’ll be asked to elaborate. The next structure is about answering questions asking for a specific example. What can some of those questions be?

  • Tell us about a situation where you worked under pressure.
  • Describe a situation when you dealt with a difficult patient.
  • Tell us about a time when you played a key role in a team.
  • Discuss a situation when you had to ask for a senior help.
  • Give an example where your communication skills made a difference to the care of a patient.

The structure you can follow to answer to these type of questions is known as STAR.

  • Situation: What is the context of the story your telling?
  • Task: What did you have to achieve?
  • Action: What did you do? How did you do it? Why did you do it?
  • Result / Reflect: What happened in the end? Did you learn anything from it?

Let’s look at a hypothetical scenario:

Give an example of a situation where you played an important role in a team.

Situation = During my surgery rotation, I was admitting patients. I was one of the only two intern doctors on-site, while my registrar and other senior colleagues busy in theatre, and consultant on call. A patient presented with a stab wound in his left hypochondriac region. He got into a fight, so the police brought him here.

Task = The patient needed an immediate exploration as I could see he was deteriorating. I started resuscitating him with fluids, and I asked one of my nurse colleagues to call the registrar. I felt it was important to inform him as soon as possible. The registrar informed me that he would be busy for at least two hours, so I took the decision to call another senior colleague who was on call. He told me that he would come in and see the patient.

Action = At the same time, I asked the nurse practitioners to call the anaesthetist and help prepare the theatre so that everything would be ready by the time the senior colleague arrived. Throughout that time I kept a constant line of communication with the colleague in order to ensure that he was fully briefed. The patient was taken to the theatre within minutes of his arrival and on exploration it was found that he had diaphragmatic injury due to the stabbing.

Result/ Reflect = It was repaired and the patient made a successful post-operative recovery. By coordinating with the team at a time that was stressful for all involved, I learned how crucial communication is in ensuring that the whole team functions well and also brings good result for the patient.

Note the absence of any overly detailed clinical information. One should be concise and try to connect back to what was said before.

NHS Interview questions on difficult scenarios

Now we will discuss about the SPIES structure which helps to answer questions on difficult scenarios.

  • Seek information: Before you can do anything, you have to understand the nature of the problem. This may involve discussing the matter with the individual concerned or with other colleagues, if appropriate.
  • Patient Safety: Once you have assessed the situation, you must make sure the patients are protected. If the person is an immediate threat, then you must remove them from the clinical area, or tell them to stop doing whatever they are doing. You may ask to speak with them privately, or in the worst case call for help to have them removed.
  • Initiative: Is there anything that you can do by yourself that will help resolve the problem?
  • Escalate: If the situation is too serious for you to deal with, then you must involve other colleagues at appropriate levels. If it is regarding a colleague, speak with the supervising consultant. If it is regarding a consultant, speak with the clinical director. If it is still not resolved, you may need to escalate further to the medical director, the chief executive, or even the GMC.
  • Support: There are reasons why someone chooses to behave the way they did. As an individual, they may need support to deal with the problem. Your team will also need support if one person is down.

This approach is supported by the following articles from the GMC’s guidance documents:

  1. Good Medical Practice – Article 25 & 43
  2. Raising and acting on concerns about patient safety – Article 12 & 13

Examples of difficult scenerios

  • One of your junior colleagues keeps coming late. What do you do?
  • One of your colleagues keeps turning up 20 minutes late each morning. What do you do?
  • What would you do if your consultant came into the theatre drunk one morning?
  • Your consultant is asking you to do something that you feel is wrong (e.g. modifying notes to cover up a mistake). What do you do?
  • During a break in the mess, you see a bag of powder (looks like cocaine) fall out of your registrars’s pocket. How do you handle the situation?

So the SPIES structure helps you to demonstrate that you can handle the situation in a responsible and mature manner, ensuring patient safety at all times whilst also resolving the matter sensitively.


Questions regarding Academic and Clinical Governance asked in an NHS Interview

These questions are increasingly common and almost always asked. They can be generic (e.g. What is research?) or specific (e.g. Tell us about an audit you have done or could have done in your hospital).

Specific questions are pretty much straightforward, just answer with definitions. But remember, regurgitating the definition is not a good idea. That shows that you did not actually understand the concept as often they contain words that are not natural for conversation. So its your duty to make them easily digestible. For example,

  • Clinical Governance is a quality assurance process, designed to ensure that standards of care are maintained and improved and that the NHS is accountable to the public.
  • Clinical audit is a review of current health practices against agreed standards, designed to ensure that, as clinicians, we provide the best level of care to our patients and that we constantly seek to improve our practice where it is not matching our standards.
  • The fundamental difference between audit and research is that the latter does not check whether you are complying with the standards. Instead, its aim is to create new knowledge that can be used to develop new standards of care. It also determines which treatments are better so that appropriate recommendations can be made.

I will highly recommend reading up on these to understand the ideas further.

Also another important topic under this umbrella is your teaching experience. As you may have mentioned briefly under your academic portion of talking about yourself, here if you are asked separately, you can elaborate on that. It can be informal or formal.

Clinical Scenarios or questions asked in the NHS interviews

Yes, your interview in the NHS will include some clinical questions or scenerios where it can be a series of branched questions or role-playing or anything related to your job and specialty. Personally, whatever I have encountered have been from PLAB 2 cases, but if you get something new, you will have to depend on your own clinical knowledge and judgement. The better option is to read up about your specialty a bit, like common emergencies and symptoms and how to approach the patient.

I would highly recommend purchasing and reading the book Medical Interviews: A Comprehensive Guide to CT, ST & Registrar Interview Skills


To conclude, the discussion here is taken from my own interviews, that of some of my colleagues, things I have learned in seminars or from reading different books/articles/etc. At the end of the day, it may vary a lot from hospital to hospital, but always remember that the approach should be short, simple, and sweet.

Still have some questions or concerns? Check out our video for some more tips and advice:

Good luck!

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