While there are undoubtedly numerous positive aspects of being a doctor, the interviewers expect a high level of awareness of the less glamorous side so that they know your decision to study medicine is a considered one.
This theme is likely to run through your interview in one way or another. Therefore, we would recommend you spend some time researching the topic and becoming comfortable talking about it. If you have trouble finding some examples, try talking to your GP, a friend's parent who is a doctor or simply making a Google or YouTube search.
Undoubtedly, there are numerous challenges that doctors face on a day-to-day basis. The exact set of challenges will vary from person to person, from speciality to speciality, and from hospital to hospital.
However, there are many challenges that ensue from the nature of the work that doctors do. This includes stress, time pressures and long-working hours handling difficult conversations with patients dealing with death and sickness, uncertainty, obligation to constantly keep up with research and novel technologies, avoiding burnout, political, social and economic limitations, and many others. No matter what speciality you choose or if you ultimately end up working in private practice, you’ll have to face and deal with these challenges at some point in your career.
It’s really important that you show appreciation of this other, gloomier side to medicine, to show that you are making a considered choice (and that you won’t drop out the moment you experience these challenges first-hand).
🧠 Go Beyond the Question. More often than not, this is perceived favourably. Hence, besides talking about the challenges inherent to medicine, try to add your own reflections. What skill, quality, or mindset is necessary to tackle those difficulties? How will your extracurriculars or traits of character help you to endure them? This question may also be an excellent opportunity to bring up your strengths (such as your extracurriculars or experiences) and invite the interviewers for a follow-up discussion. Through that, you can show you are willing to develop skills, which will help you endure those challenges.
🙆♂️ Relate the Answer To Your Own Experiences. Relate the answer to your own experiences to show the interviewers you have a deeper insight than that provided by a simple Google search. Mention how you became aware of those challenges: Was it through an insightful book, a conversation with a nurse or maybe your work experience? Whatever it is, it will add credibility and individuality to your answer.
💪 Underestimating the Challenges. Medicine is rarely about glamorous and heroic life-saving, so do not downplay the importance of the difficulties you will face. If you are asked about the challenges doctors face, make sure you show thorough awareness of the struggles and readiness to apply yourself to them instead of fixating on the positive aspects of the job.
🥱 Being Generic. Make sure the reflections are your own and not just fixed phrases. You can avoid those by supporting your points with real-life examples.
🔢 Listing the Challenges (without giving an explanation). It's about quality, not quantity. Try to limit yourself to 2 points, elaborate on each one and relate them to yourself.
"What's the HARDEST part about being a DOCTOR? | Challenges in Medicine and Surgery" - a series of interviews with six physicians about the most challenging part of their job.
Medfully - the best all-in-one, medicine interview preparation resource.