Becoming a physician entails much more than simply acquiring the right set of skills to recognize and treat a host of diseases. The field of medicine is a humane profession that can only guarantee a high standard of care when a physician is able to conduct effective communication with patients and make them feel secure and well-understood. Medical schools in the Caribbean realize the importance of these less-recognized aspects of the field, such as a propensity to write concisely and clearly, both follow and provide directions in high-stake and stressful situations, and to empathize with patients.
Medical school admissions committees are always looking for applicants who project stellar communication skills in their interviews. Interview panelists take a wide array of factors into account before favoring an applicant, such as the length of time the applicant is able to speak professionally, their clarity in speech, and language and persuasion skills. Research has shown that failure to hone in on your communication skills can contribute to lack of compliance, dissatisfaction among patients, burnout among consultants, and medicolegal problems down the road. This is why we urge applicants to fine-tune their writing, non-verbal, and listening faculties before applying to a Caribbean medical school. Here is how you can sharpen your vital communication skills before the unrelenting rounds of interviews fire off:
- Verbal Communication
The art of listening seems to be dwindling in this technologically driven era, since our attention is constantly ripped between face-to-face interactions and backlit screens. To be a good physician is to be able to focus your full attention on the person who is communicating with you, be it a fellow student, a patient, or an individual attending for a third-year rotation.
Clinical educators highly value candidates who exhibit outstanding communication skills, since effective communication in clinical settings boosts the chances that patients are empowered to actively partake in their own care, patients and their physicians reach a common ground on treatment, and patients stay content since they feel that their physician is genuinely interested in them and not just in milking their wallets dry. This also increases the likelihood that the physician has gathered the right information from patients to make reliable and accurate diagnostic assessments.
Fortunately, the process of nurturing your listening skills can be deeply ingrained in your day-to-day life. For instance, to stop your attention from diverting easily, why not stow away your Smart phone or put it on silent while you are with a friend. Instead of looking for a get-away, strike up a meaningful conversation where you not only ask questions but also try to stamp the other person’s answers on your mind.
On a professional scale, you can fine-tune your listening skills by jumping on tons of opportunities available throughout your school life or when you are taking a gap year. You can also get into volunteer programs that help prospective applicants confront difficult situations and adjust to college life. Volunteering in long-term care facilities or even nursing homes can offer to-be-medical-students a chance to foster meaningful relationships based on empathizing with patients and paying attention to their needs.
Once you have developed a set of listening skills, you can leverage them to your advantage at your medial school interview by selling your committee on your suitability and getting to know the fellow applicants while you are waiting. Portraying an interest in people helps demonstrate that you are a great listener and communicator who is ready to tackle the future challenges head-on!
- Non-Verbal Communication
Just as listening, speaking, reading and writing skills are important for nailing your medical University application process, non-verbal communication will say a lot about your character and how eager you are to get into the University of your Choice. Your body language, eye contact and your voice/tone will speak volumes about your personality. Of course, a nervous student will make some blunders in this regard, but with a little practice, you can overcome this as well.
Most people fail to realize the poor impression they are leaving by their body language alone, such as standing with their hands on hips, crossing their arms in the middle of defending a statement, or fidgeting continuously. Exuding a proper body language is highly critical during a medical school interview to leave a great first impression. For instance, slouching and crossing arms is strictly off the table. Instead, we suggest you sit up confidently, leaning slightly toward your interviewer to emanate an aura of reliability and confidence.
If you are looking to hone in on your non-verbal communication skills before you apply to a Caribbean medical school, why not compete in public speaking events, enroll in a speech class, or join improv classes. Debate classes and public speaking offer plenty of opportunities for you to practice relaying the right emotions or message to an audience, using your body language in addition to your words.
In addition, you can use courses such as speech classes or acting clubs in school to develop your nonverbal skills in a peaceful environment. You can also integrate the art of mastering non-verbal communication in your day-to-day life by staying mindful of your body posture while talking to another person or even sitting alone. Align your daily actions with how they should be during your final interview, keeping your admissions committees in mind.