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Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center

30 Interview Questions & Answers

1.
Not all cancer patients will go into remission. How do you deal emotionally knowing that you are caring for someone who probably will not survive their illness?
***Note: We do not have professional answers for this career***
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1.
Not all cancer patients will go into remission. How do you deal emotionally knowing that you are caring for someone who probably will not survive their illness?
Dealing with terminally ill patients is taxing, no matter how strong you are or how much experience one has. Sharing your thoughts on how you deal with these difficult situations gives the interviewer a chance to know you and what drives you to overcome these difficult times.

Darby's Answer #1
"That question is one that could have a different answer on any given day. None of us wants to lose a patient. For me, one of the best ways I have found to cope is by offering my time and understanding to patients and their families. Often times they feel like I am helping them when, in fact, they are really the ones helping me to cope."
Darby's Answer #2
"Knowing that someone I am caring for today may not be alive tomorrow is very hard. I guess we all have our own way of dealing with things. For me, when I leave work for the day, I try to surround myself around people and things that I love so that I can have some positive vibes to carry me through. Some days are more difficult than others, but I am still here and can't imagine myself doing any other type of work."
2.
What are some ways that you feel are beneficial in resolving work-related tension among co-workers?
Being able to help resolve issues and relieve tension is a great characteristic in anyone, especially in healthcare providers. Share your thoughts with the interviewer regarding how to help with day to day tensions and stress.

Darby's Answer #1
"We all have a bad day from time to time, no matter what our job is. I think the important thing is to remember to be forgiving and as understanding as possible. If I finish my assignments a little early, I always try to offer help to others to try and take the pressure of falling behind off of them."
Darby's Answer #2
"I always try to have a light-hearted approach to stressful issues. It's easy to get caught up in tense situations but I think that being kind is a great way to help others take a step back and evaluate the situation and try to resolve those issues."
3.
How long have you worked oncology, and what is the most stressful part of this job?
Any job that requires one to care for others, especially others who may be terminally ill, has times that are more stressful than others. The interviewer does not expect you to be some super hero with no emotional connection or who does not feel overwhelmed at times. This is the time to show your 'human nature side.' A good way to respond would be to share what is most stressful for you and briefly add how you deal with the stress.

Darby's Answer #1
"I have worked with oncology patients for almost (X) years. I would have to say that the most stressful part of this job is the 'not knowing.' What I mean by that is, every patient is different. They each respond to treatment in their own unique ways. I try to stay positive and encouraging despite the fact that I do not always know the 'perfect answer.' I have found that simply being an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on not only relieves the patient's stress, but it often helps relieve my own, as well."
Darby's Answer #2
"The most stressful part of working oncology is having to acknowledge that not everyone I care for from day to day is going to beat cancer. There are days when I feel like my patients are more resilient to the reality of their prognosis than I am. I am a 'fixer' and knowing that I can't always fix things or make them better is the hardest part for me."
4.
Have you ever been responsible for providing education to chemotherapy patients regarding changes that may occur in their bodies due to treatment?
Chemotherapy, while beneficial at times, also has its negative effects. Most patients experience hair loss and weight loss. For most, swallowing becomes difficult because the chemotherapy often causes blisters or sores in the mouth and throat. Preparing a patient for these possible effects beforehand allows them some time to begin to process what to expect and often helps with their mental well being through the process. Share any experience you have with the interviewer.

Darby's Answer #1
"I have been responsible for the education of chemotherapy patients and family members. One of the most concerning things is making sure that they understand alternatives to meeting nutritional needs such as drinking supplemental shakes (Ensure, Glucerna, etc) if mouth sores develop during treatment."
Darby's Answer #2
"One of my main responsibilities at my previous employer was pre-chemotherapy education. One of things that patients always thought they were 'prepared for,' but really were not was hair loss. I got to know some people who own a wig company in that town who provided complimentary consultations to our patients. It was heartwarming to see people reach out and help in such a giving w
"
5.
Chemotherapy often affects a patient's immune system. What are some things you would suggest to these patients to help prevent complications during chemotherapy treatment?
One of the main concerns in providing care to patients who are receiving chemotherapy treatment is their susceptibility to other illness or infections related to a compromised immune system. Sharing your understanding of this risk with the interviewer is important.

Darby's Answer #1
"I think education before beginning chemotherapy is essential. Including family members in the education is also helpful since patients require a bit of assistance during the chemo regimen. It has been my experience that if patients and family understand the most common infection control measures such as proper hand hygiene, staying away from people who are ill, and for patients to wear a mask if they have to be in public places, this reduces many of the illnesses that these patients could acquire."
Darby's Answer #2
"I believe it is important for patients to understand that prevention is key when it comes to protecting themselves during chemotherapy treatment. One of the easiest ways to protect against illness is to restrict visitors in and out of the home. We also advise that if people are going to visit, the patient or family asks them if they have been sick or around anyone who has been sick within the previous week. If they have, they are encouraged to ask the guest to wait to visit until they are sure they are not ill themselves."
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