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Residency Interview Questions and Answers

Medical Residency Application & Interview Preparation Specialists

Interviews for Medical Residency can require a breadth of knowledge and attributes. Here, we present 10 high yield questions and answer suitable for candidates to Medical Residency in the US. Further questions can be found in our Medical Residency Interview Question Bank

Personal Questions

What are your strengths? List three, briefly.

My three strengths that I would highlight are resilience, empathy, and analysis. My ability to come back or push through challenging situations has been core to my success so far in life – whilst I am lucky to have had great grades at school and a relatively smooth journey to medical school, family problems at medical school meant that I had to find a renewed focus and truly push myself in order to get to where I am now. All doctors need resilience, and a realistic appreciation of the challenges of the career, to succeed. I believe that I am highly empathetic – I provide support to patients, colleagues or friends, and am easily able to understand when others need help, when they would rather have time to themselves, etc. This in turn allows me to better develop trusting and caring relationships. My ability to analyse has been key for me at medical school – whether that’s analysing a patient’s case, or analysing a topic and understanding what’s important for future clinical work. I expect that it will continue to prove vital as I progress onward.

What is unique about you? What makes you different from everyone else?

I would argue that someone’s uniqueness is a result of all the different facets of their personality combined, rather than one individual element. However, if I had to settle on one particular trait or set of traits, I would argue that my ability to comprehensively analyse a situation or problem whilst remaining empathetic and entirely human sets me apart; to expand on that – if you present a complex problem to me, I would trust that I can find a sensible solution, and that I have the ability to understand how others will be affected by it, and present it in a way that they understand and that allows them to feel comfortable. Perhaps this is not unique, but it is a great strength; most others are strong on one side but not the other here, from my experience.

What kind of learner are you?

I’m largely a visual learner – I find it easy to learn through looking at text or images, and am able to memorise easily through looking at textbooks or diagrams. However, I ensure that I reinforce learning done in this manner through other mediums as well – I’ll take notes and edit and them, I’ll practise questions and drill them until I’m confident that I won’t be surprised by any part of an exam, and I’ll ensure that my learning is put to real use in clinical environments as well. I find speaking to attendings or residents a great way of testing the real-world practicality and use of knowledge that I’ve picked up from lectures or textbooks, and it ensures that my learning is focused where it needs to be. I am both a team learner and an independent learner – I’ll generally lay the foundation for a topic with individual learning, then do group quizzes and presentations with friends to perfect areas.

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Readiness for Medicine

Tell me about a time you had to deal with a colleague making a mistake.

During my Geriatric Medicine rotation last year, which I chose as it would expose me to a range of different conditions, and out of awareness for our ageing population, I was often on the wards with another student who had far too relaxed an attitude to clinical environments. He made a mistake when he mistook one patient for another; both were of the same sex and age, and had similar names. Both were acutely confused. He therefore told a stable patient, relatively well bar their confusion, that they were suffering from two separate chronic diseases – neither of which affected them in reality. They therefore became highly agitated and distressed. I was nearby and noticed this taking place, and intervened politely. I asked my colleague to allow me a few minutes with the patient. I found the right notes and calmly explained to them that a mistake had been made, and ran through their correct diagnosis and treatment plan. Due to their confusion their agitation persisted, despite my best efforts to calm them, and I elected to consult a senior doctor on how to proceed.

Did you think about any other specialties before choosing this one? If so, what, and why?

Yes – I was interested in radiology as well. I found the process to be fascinating, and it seemed very different to the rest of Medicine. In multidisciplinary teams, I found that radiologists had an incredible knowledge of the human body and its anatomy, and their importance to so many other fields intrigued me. Without help from radiologists, many other specialists would not be able to provide high quality care. When I researched the different forms of interventional radiology I became even more interested. However, this was in tandem with my burgeoning interest in psychiatry. Over time I reasoned that the greater chance to interact with patients that Psychiatry offered, and the chance to pursue my true passion within Medicine, understanding the mind, was more important. I therefore pursued Psychiatry, having educated myself extensively on both fields. On the other hand, if the patient is well-informed, aware of the risks, and living under the shadow of a condition that is debilitating and likely to soon kill them, then we can understand that they would want to try everything in their power to improve their outcomes. Given that some people will take part in the Phase 1 of a clinical trial – and that these people are typically healthy, given that phase 1 tests only side effects – then why should those people not contain among their number some patients who might actually benefit from the drug?

How will you avoid burnout?

I’ll avoid burnout through a number of different activities, processes, and through my own attributes and understanding. In terms of activities that will help, I’ve already found that spending time with my friends and family outside of work provides me with a chance to de-stress, as does exercise. In particular, running or going to the gym allows me time to focus on myself, to contemplate issues without others intervening, or time simply to switch off from external stressors. I’ve a range of processes that I use to face stress and potential burnout head on, which have been of use throughout medical school. I meditate each morning, keep a journal of particularly strong positive and negative thoughts, and ensure that I speak to others about my thoughts and feelings. In particular, I find it useful to speak to both my supervising tutor and other students, as I receive a range of different feedback through doing so. I’m highly resilient, but equally willing to admit when I don’t feel 100% – which means that I’m able to deal with stress effectively. 

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Ethical Questions

Tell me about a time that you violated confidentiality and why you did it.

I have never had to violate confidentiality – I think it’s unlikely that medical students would often have to violate such an important part of patents’ rights and medical ethics. However, I understand that there are various times when one might need to break confidentiality, and I of course would be ready to do so if such a circumstance arose. Briefly, these situations include a patient who is still driving despite a condition which means they should have alerted the DMV (like epilepsy, certain eye conditions, or certain cardiovascular conditions), a patient who has a particular type of transmissible disease but has refused to alert their partner, or a patient who has revealed that a crime is to be committed. There are other possibilities, of course, and I would be able to assess each as it arose; if in doubt, I would speak to a senior and seek assistance to ensure that my actions were correct.

How would you decide which patient should receive a transplant between an elderly judge and a young drug addict?

Firstly, I would avoid making any assumptions based on the wording of the question, which might be rather easy in this case, without questioning them. First initial factors would obviously be the mechanical or biological viability of the transplant, e.g. whether it was taken from someone of a similar size, and whether there was a tissue match. Having satisfied these basic initial questions we could move onto the social factors. On the one hand we have the judge, who we would assume has had a ‘good’ life and as they are elderly might have an extended family who rely on them to some extent, etc. On the other hand, the young drug addict – we might assume that they have no dependents, and perhaps that they are a less positive influence on society. However, they may well have dependents, making a transplant all the more important. Equally, as someone who is interested in a future career in addiction psychiatry, I find the black and white nature of the comparison to be a little reductive; I’d want much more information regarding the nature of their addiction and how it impacts their health. Chiefly – is it responsible for their ill health, and if so what steps have been taken to overcome it? With this information, how many QALYs remain for each patient? I would want to speak to each, better understand each situation, and of course discuss the case with other physicians involved in their care.

What would you do if you found that a senior doctor was having a relationship with a patient?

Such a situation would be entirely unacceptable, and would likely be in total disregard of hospital and state policies. As such, I would immediately speak to the senior doctor in question to better understand the situation. It’s possible that my information was incorrect or I had not understood it, so a discussion in private with the doctor in question would be necessary. I would ensure that I remained polite and professional no matter their response, and would allow them time to speak and to explain themselves. I would ensure that I was empathetic towards them, even if their actions do seem to be entirely unacceptable – one can still be empathetic. I would request of them that they speak to the correct figure within the faculty regarding their behaviour, and report it themselves, rather than me having to do so. If they were willing to report themselves, and willing to follow the correct processes, then I would be able to take a step back and further assess the situation, and support those who needed support through it. If they became angry or were unwilling to report themselves, I would report them myself, and ensure that the correct procedure was followed.

What would you do if someone senior tells you to do something 100% wrong?

In such a situation I’d speak to them in private to better ascertain why they’re directing me to do this – perhaps it’s wrong in this situation, but correct in others, and as such a misunderstanding that we can solve through working together. I’d ensure that I allowed them to speak and to explain their thought process, and ask open questions politely to ensure that I understood. I’d check my understanding with them throughout, and ensure that we were on the same page. If their instructions were still incorrect, then I would explain that I can’t do something that I don’t believe to be correct, and explain that I would like to speak to another senior physician in order to find a way of moving forward. I would not act on something that was wrong or that could lead to detrimental consequences.

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