Med schools test candidates' social skills speed-dating style

A select few medical schools are looking at whether new candidates pass the smell test, that is, whether would-be medical students have the people skills to be offered a position.

Breaking with tradition, eight medical schools, including Stanford, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Cincinnati, go beyond the standard test scores and hour-long interviews to determine candidates' social skills and teamwork abilities through the speed-dating equivalent of the medical school interview, the multiple mini interview (MMI), according to the New York Times.

For instance, Virginia Tech Carilion administrators have 26 candidates read an ethical dilemma scenario and, two minutes later, the candidates switch rooms to answer a series of questions from an interviewer. The interviewer asks questions, such as whether giving patients alternative remedies is ethical or whether pediatricians should support parents who want to circumcise newborns. However, the interviewer is really looking at how the candidates respond rather than the answers.

"We are trying to weed out the students who look great on paper but haven't developed the people or communication skills we think are important," said Dr. Stephen Workman, associate dean for admissions and administration at Virginia Tech Carilion, in the NYT article.

Interviewers assess if candidates jump to conclusions or are overly opinionated, which may be in indicator for poor behavior down the road.

If they perform poorly during the interview, the candidates will not be offered positions, according to Dr. Cynda Ann Johnson, the dean of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, in the NYT article.

With preventable deaths linked to poor communication, according to Joint Commission research, there has been increasing national efforts to improve communication, as well as implement team approaches to medicine. Selecting medical students with people skills may be one way to improve care.

For more:
- read the NYT article

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