Why should I use NHS Values in my medicine interview?
The NHS Values are key principles which structure how professionals in the NHS conduct themselves: basically, the qualities and values which make a good doctor. They can be a really great structure for you to use during your application and interview. By preparing some ideas about the NHS values before your medical school interview, you will feel more confident and able to rely on the tools in your belt to attempt the question and demonstrate how you’d make a good doctor.
Preparing for the application and interview is a fair amount of work, however breaking it down into small chunks will make it completely manageable, and give you a structure when you prepare. Furthermore, it’s hard to know what you’re supposed to get out of work experience and how you want to talk about it in your personal statement and interview. Using the NHS values will give you an opportunity to reflect on your experience and how to integrate it into your practice.
How should you go about this?
Understanding what the NHS values mean and how to apply them appropriately in your interview is critical. Many students just use these words as buzz words however the interviewer will be able to tell if you don’t actually understand what they mean. A good way to show you understand them, is to answer with examples of how you have demonstrated these qualities or reflections.
What are the NHS Values?
The NHS Constitution which is composed of policies and standards for doctors and healthcare workers to use as a reference. Three important standards for medical students are the 🔗 NHS Values, which are complemented by the 🔗 “Good Medical Practice” Guidelines by GMC, and 🔗 Outcomes for Graduates by GMC, which outline professional standards and the expected outcomes for medical school graduates. These each illustrate key characteristics that medical schools want medical students and doctors to demonstrate.
The NHS Values are:
- Working together for patients
- Respect and dignity
- Commitment to quality of care
- Improving lives
- Everyone counts
The GMC’s Good Medical Practice guidelines are:
- Make the care of your patient your first concern
- Be competent and keep your professional knowledge and skills up to date
- Take prompt action if you think patient safety is being compromised
- Establish and maintain good partnerships with your patients and colleagues
- Maintain trust in you and the profession by being open, honest and acting with integrity
Value 1: Working together for patients
“Working together for patients” means putting the patients at the centre of all decision making. For example, prioritising what they care about, ensuring you’re not doing what is easy or cheaper but the option that will give the patient the best quality of life.
Additionally, it highlights that the foundation of medical practice in the NHS is multidisciplinary teamwork and communication. Hospitals are composed of nurses, physiotherapists, doctors, surgeons, radiologists, occupational therapists, healthcare assistants and many many more people. Therefore, medical schools want someone who can lead fairly, work well in a team and value their colleagues (because you will really need them!)
In an interview you might be asked about your own leadership skills and how they’d translate into a medical career.
To answer this, you should reflect on why good leadership is important and how you have experienced or demonstrated this in your own leadership experiences. For example, you might talk about a challenge you overcame in a leadership role and how that demonstrated how leadership is important to you.
e.g. You were the captain of a sports team and some members of your team had a disagreement. How did you navigate this?
e.g. You were leading an organised event and someone’s work wasn’t done in time. How did you navigate that challenge to bring about a positive result?
In an interview you might be asked about why teamwork is important in a medical career, or specifically about multidisciplinary teams.
The key thing to remember here is to talk about how teams are beneficial. You might have witnessed this during work experience and reflected upon it; even if you didn’t do any clinical work experience, think about how teamwork was used there and to what ends. Think about how good teamwork means everyone’s experience is maximised and tasks can be efficiently carried out.
To come up with your own experience, think about the following questions: When have you overcome a challenge when working with someone? Have you changed your behaviour or checked your assumption about a teammate after an event? What have you reflected on when seeing medical professionals interact?
Value 2: Respect and dignity
These values apply to everyone involved in healthcare so in your answer make sure you don’t just focus on one: consider patients, patients’ families and any staff member.
This value calls for doctors to always behave appropriately and without prejudice to everyone, enforcing everyone’s dignity. It also calls for empathetic practice which centres around the patient and includes them in every step of the care so they feel respected.
Empathy and Shared-decision making
In an interview you may be asked about shared-decision making, or patient-centred practice, or more general questions about empathy and collaboration. You could reflect on your work experience if you witnessed this.
It’s important to not just name-drop these terms but instead demonstrate how you have spent time to consider, learn or accommodate someone else’s experience or wishes. A really good example of this if for those who did work experience in a nursing home – you might come across a patient who finds that they want to choose quality of life over length, and a good doctor who developed a treatment plan to fulfil that wish (obviously considering ethical limitations). Being Mortal by Atul Gawande is a very good book which develops upon this value if you’d like to reflect on that more.
In an interview you may be asked how you would maintain professional boundaries with members of friends and family who might want to have medical advice from you, and also in a workplace setting.
The key to this question is to balance the legal requirements, your duty of care and respecting their wishes. While you can offer some advice, remember you are liable to any adverse consequences as a result. But also you have a duty of care to this person who is suffering, which means you should offer some advice (e.g. this may be to see your GP or call 111) and importantly, you can still offer sympathy as a friend.
Value 3: Commitment to quality of care
Doctors’ motivations for practising medicine must be appropriate and focused on keeping high quality of care. Doctors should show integrity and honesty even at challenging moments and never take short corners especially if it impacts the quality of their care.
Integrity and Honesty
In an interview you could be asked about times you had to retain integrity in challenging moments, or about times you’ve seen others demonstrate integrity and what you learned from these experiences.
If you’re reflecting on these areas, it’s important to provide a bit of context (what was happening), and to explain why integrity and honesty are important values. Medical practice is very high stakes, meaning doctors should be responsible and accountable for their actions and mistakes. People want doctors who are able to admit to errors, and reflect to improve their future practice.
It’s important to give examples. This could be while on a sports team, as part of a club, or even in your personal life. Try to reflect on this experience using the points you made earlier. This is a great opportunity to talk about work experience, but you don’t have to use work experience to explore this topic. Try to round off your answer with a reflection or point of learning, e.g. how the person in question approached the conversation or how they checked to ensure they were correct with their judgement.
In an interview you may be asked about what constitutes good/bad communication and examples of this.
Communication is crucial to ensure that teams work well and maintain a focus on the patient’s wishes and needs. It is also a fundamental principle of medicine and doctors need to be good at communicating to be able to deliver good quality of care.
Here, you could use the same example as teamwork or leadership. I think it’s valuable to show that people learn how to communicate over their entire lives, and good communication varies in definition depending on the individual, the environment and the type of communication. Maybe try to think of a moment when you communicated something badly, reflected on it and then tried again to communicate the same thing to the same person to improve?
Value 4: Improving lives
This NHS value is important to show the many ways in which doctors can improve lives. To make meaningful improvement to patients’ lives includes both small actions (e.g. finding socks when they’re cold, waiting for their family to arrive before starting a hard conversation) as well as big action (e.g. surgeries or medical prescriptions). Overall, doctors should practise with competence and have excellent knowledge so they can make the right decisions and successfully practise medical procedures.
Knowledge, skills and performance
You might get specific questions about e.g. biology, statistics, or a medical scenario. Reflect on the scientific learning you have done so far at school and outside of school to help you answer these questions.
A crucial way that doctors develop and maintain this level of excellence is by teaching or mentoring peers and attending training. While it is unlikely that you would have properly taught at this point, you may have examples of any mentoring in school, scouts leading or sport coaching which you could reflect on, or if you don’t, think about times when you’ve been taught well by a mentor or teacher and what principles they used to support you.
Value 5: Everyone counts
The NHS is an incredible organisation, providing healthcare to everyone regardless of factors which divide the population. To address this value you may be asked a question about teamwork.
Inclusion, diversity and tolerance with ethics and moral reasoning
You may be asked questions about providing patient care and different ethical scenarios, such as refusing patient care, or ensuring access to particular types of care.
These questions will include you demonstrating an understanding of how the NHS is structured and funded, showing your compassion and inclusivity, and the ability to argue any decision through an ethical framework.
For an ethics question it is good to have a grasp on the ethical standpoints and morals to then apply them aptly to situations. For ethical theories consider learning utilitarianism, consequentialism and hedonism and for medical ethics questions, it’s great to use the 4 pillars of medicine. To really make your answer pop, think about involving a case in recent news, and practise applying them to a scenario so that you feel comfortable with the tricky concepts!
To summarise I would read through the “Good Medical Practice” by the GMC. Write out your own explanation of each NHS value and aspect of Good Medical Practice so that when asked you have a well-worded answer. Then, try to break down each skill and explain how your experiences demonstrate these skills and would affect your practice as a doctor. Good luck!