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Family Medicine Residency Interview

21 Questions and Answers by
| Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.

Question 1 of 21

Would you like to teach, pursue academics, and/or do research, besides your clinical duties in our program?

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Family Medicine Residency Interview Questions

  1. 1.

    Would you like to teach, pursue academics, and/or do research, besides your clinical duties in our program?

      You should answer that you WOULD like to teach, pursue academics, and/or do research, besides your clinical duties in our program. This will most likely echo similar sentiments expressed in your personal statement. Programs want candidates who will give back, and this is best done by teaching and doing research.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "I can't separate my teaching opportunities to those under me and my research efforts from my clinical duties. It's a package deal in my opinion. They all help each other. With me, I hope to give you the entire package, because I think all of those things are inseparable."

  2. 2.

    Everyone makes mistakes. Can you give me an example of a misstep in patient care or diagnosis which ended badly and how it might have changed you?

      For this question, you should bring up a mistake that most people make at some point, e.g., a dosage mistake, a misdiagnosis, etc. In other words, nothing unique or exciting. The most important thing in answering this question is to show that you find every mistake (and success) a learning opportunity. So, cite your mistake, but then show what you learned from it and how the experience will help you to prevent similar missteps in your future.

  3. 3.

    What made you choose Family Medicine?

      This is a question in which you can shine by espousing the vision of the specialty--the family. Share why forming relationships with families is necessary and meaningful to you and what drew you to want to serve families.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "It seems to me that all other specialties deal with just the patient, whereas Family Medicine deals with the entire family. If one patient falls ill, it affects the entire family. This specialty often allows a beauty of caring for all members within a family, so that the tangential impact on other members from one member's illness can be discoverable--and treatable. The family is a dynamic thing, being the 'family doctor' is a privilege most other specialties never enjoy."

  4. 4.

    If a pregnant woman you are seeing hands you what is called a “birth contract” that forbids such things as fetal monitoring or IVs, and she asks you to sign it and be bound by it, what do you do, knowing if you don’t, she’ll leave your practice?

      The interviewer here wants to know, generally, how you would handle any demanding patient and, specifically, how you might handle this demanding patient. He or she would expect you to be accommodating, but only up to a certain point and curious about where you would draw the line.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "I know that pregnancy books talk about these contracts and I suppose it's similar to an advanced directive. Certainly, a patient has a right to offer me such an advanced directive for consideration. But I also have the right to either accept its terms or not. I would explain to her that I would strive to keep within the bounds of the contract, but I would ask to omit anything that could negatively impact labor and delivery or the main goal--to get a healthy mother and baby out of it. If she were willing to accept my good-faith intentions to follow the contract but allow me the freedom to make necessary decisions, I would agree to it. If she insists on some absolutes in the contract, in spite of my offer, I would respectfully propose referring her to another practice."

  5. 5.

    A medical student refuses to begin antibiotics on a child with otitis media. He says the current literature is against using antibiotics for this. You insist and he refuses, but you are free to start them if you want. How would you handle this?

      This is a question to see how you address a challenge to your authority within the hierarchy of power. As such, it is an ugly conflict, and the question is designed to demonstrate how you act under such a personal and procedural challenge to your authority. It is not so much how you plan to win the power struggle, but how you plan to resolve it with diplomacy, while still championing the chain of command. It also will reveal how you would accept correction, even from someone under you.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "I would suggest the student follow my instruction, but I would be amenable to inspecting his evidence from the literature. Conclusions from the literature are not always absolute and there are often mitigating circumstances. If I am acting on such circumstances, as his mentor, I should teach him my rationale for going against the conventional recommendation. If I have no special justification and he shows me the studies which demonstrate my plan is incorrect, I have to admit to him that he is correct and thank him for pointing this out to me. However, I should also tell him that if this were to recur, I would be duty-bound to reporting him up the chain of command, even when shown I was incorrect. We may both risk reprimand for different reasons, but it would be the correct approach. There is a chain of command for a reason, and such insubordination is not conducive to effective instruction. As professionals, we should both be able to approach whatever conflict there is between us in a professional, ethical, and positive way. If he still refuses, as his superior, I should set the example and, if needed, ask for help higher up."

  6. 6.

    Family Medicine is considered a primary care specialty. Where would you draw the line of handling something yourself vs referring on to another—possibly more qualified—physician?

      Primary care is a balancing act. It is up to the individual provider to do what he or she is capable of doing and not doing what someone else can do better. The patient comes first, not your bragging rights. This question aims to find out how tenacious you would be rather than letting go and whether you realize that where you draw your line may be putting your patient second.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "If I feel someone can do something better, I have the responsibility to my patient to step aside. I know I have to learn by doing, but in having someone else step in--for the sake of my patient--I can still invite myself into the evaluation, test, or procedure to avoid losing a learning opportunity. If I do this enough, I may be the best person to act for my patient in the next instance and not have to step aside."

  7. 7.

    Physicians are very busy people. Do you feel you can assure your patients you’ll always be available to them?

      At first blush, it seems that you'll want to answer that you'll do everything you can to always be there for your patients. But this is unrealistic, and the interviewer is seeing how you can be realistic in doing what's best for both you and your patient--because if one suffers, it's no good for anyone.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "Just living to work is not much of a life. Neither is just working to live, because that is living one paycheck at a time, so to speak. I want to make sure that my work is a crucial part of my life, among other things like family, recreation, or outside interests. I have to be honest with my patients, for example, if I plan on going on a vacation or will be taking time off. I will make sure that I can honestly assure them in these situations that I will have someone in my stead who is just as knowledgeable and dedicated."

  8. 8.

    You and a peer are waiting on a patient's blood work. You tell the peer one of you should contact the lab and not wait. The results could make a difference overnight. It is the end of the shift; your partner says it can wait and leaves. What do you do?

      This is a question about dedication and putting the patient first. True, another team will be taking over, but unless you have their assurance to deal with the pending results, you should know that a lot can happen in the half a day (or overnight) during which the results were not acted upon. You need to let the interviewer know that you are dedicated to the fact that any test ordered obligates the one ordering it to act upon it as soon as it is ready. But you must also acknowledge not giving your partner a pass on failing in his duty.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "There are two ways to handle this. First, telling the new team the labs need to be addressed and getting their assurance that they'll follow up. Alternatively, doing it myself. The only way I can be sure it gets done is doing it myself, even if it means staying beyond my shift. I feel this way only because my team is who ordered the test. Then, there is my partner who deserted his or her duty, in my opinion. Whether the results are retrieved or not, we are both considered the ones retrieving them or not retrieving them. While this doesn't necessarily create the need of going up the chain of command, I would tell him that I expect the same level of dedication from both of us, and that our team is only as good as its weakest link."

  9. 9.

    What do you feel is/are your greatest weakness(es) and how would you act to correct it/them?

      This is your chance to promoting yourself in spite of flaws. Your answer point out salvageable weaknesses--that is, you want to come off admitting you're imperfect, but that you have the gumption and what it takes to work on your weaknesses, as you are committed to being the best you can be. You will want to add that if you're not performing at your best, that you'd feel as if you were failing your program and find that unacceptable.

  10. 10.

    What has been your biggest ethical challenge thus far in medicine?

      The interviewer here wants to sincerely know how you solved your biggest problem. This is not a trick question. Your answer should reflect that you know what is ethical vs. non-ethical, where you need to intervene and how, and that the patient-physician relationship puts the patient first, but not at the expense of the physician's ethics.

  11. 11.

    You diagnose a man with genital herpes. His wife is your pregnant patient. He begs you not to tell her, throwing patient confidentiality into your face. What do you do? What do you do if he refuses to cooperate?

      This is not really as tough a question as it seems. Whether you were specifically exposed to decision protocols in medical school or not, you are probably aware that a sexually transmitted infection can have a serious impact on unborn and newborn babies. Yes, he is your patient and entitled to confidentiality, but something that crosses over to his wife and impacts her as your patient, and their baby, negates that portion of the confidentiality. You need to explain this distinction.
      If he refuses to cooperate, you have a difficult decision to make. You could dismiss him as a patient and then tell his wife or you could dismiss both of them, knowing that your continued caring for her can't work.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "I know that this could possibly hurt their baby, and since they are all my patients, I have a responsibility to treat them together. I would explain to the husband that there are protocols that must be implemented based on such infections and that the health of their baby requires the mother's cooperation, meaning...she has to know about it. I would tell him that the emotional fallout would have to be dealt with, but that is easier by way of marriage counseling than a difficult life raising a sick child or experiencing the tragedy of losing a child.
      I would tell him to cooperate with the transparency--that is, let me inform his wife and explain what it means. If he objects, I would tell him it's the only way I can continue being his (or their) doctor. If he refuses, then I would follow the usual protocol in dismissing him from my practice and telling him that until I am dismissed by his wife, as her doctor I owe her the explanation, come what may."

  12. 12.

    You are being interviewed by a prospective new patient couple who want to know your views on pregnancy termination before agreeing to come to you. How would you respond?

      This sort of thing actually happens--patients wanting to make sure their personal views and their doctors' views align. You should not offer your personal view but assure her you will follow accepted protocols for education for patients who may present with an unwanted pregnancy.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "I would tell them that my personal views are just that--personal. But I would assure them all patients have rights and that I will never interfere with their own legal, personal choices. I would also explain that if there are aspects of medicine I choose not to be directly or even indirectly involved with, that it is just as much my right to recuse myself with the understanding that I will refer them to another practice for the appropriate education before making a very important decision."

  13. 13.

    If a female patient were to accuse you of “coming on” to her, what would you do?

      The interviewer, here, wants to know your policy of privacy as well as dealing with difficult people. A false accuser can do just as much harm as a truthful one. Just the accusation alone is enough for people to jump to conclusions. Notes should include all persons in attendance (and EMR makes this easy) to exonerate you, if needed.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "First of all, all closed-door encounters must be chaperoned. That being said, I would report this to my superior resident and document the incident, including listing those in attendance with me at the time. I would also dismiss the patient from my practice with a polite but blunt letter stating that I was sorry she misinterpreted our patient-physician relationship to be more than it actually is. I would also preemptively send all of this material to my state board in case the patient were to make a complaint about me. Alternatively, if my program had a different protocol, I would follow that."

  14. 14.

    What would you do about a patient being rude to your receptionist?

      When people are sick or hurting, we of all people should appreciate that tempers can get short, so we should cut them some slack. Your receptionist, on the other hand, isn't sick or hurting and it's part of her job to be--of all people--the one to appreciate that hostility toward her may just be part of the job. As part of your practice, he or she is held to a higher standard.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "Being rude is one thing, but abuse is another. Personal attacks and verbal abuse with foul language is not just ugly, it's hurtful. And it's ugly for other patients to see. No one wants to be around that, so I would have a duty to protect not only my employee, but my patients, from this needless, ugly turmoil when it crosses the line from being testy to overt abuse."

  15. 15.

    First impressions are important. What would you do about a receptionist who you discovered was being rude to a patient?

      A doctor is expected to always put his or her patient first. But it is difficult to choose between a patient and that employee in which there is considerable investment in training. The interviewer will want to know where you draw the line between your loyalty to your employee and to your practice.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "I would step into the interaction by sending the employee on some bogus mission to remove her from the situation. Then I would assure the patient that since she seems a bit distraught, I'd like to help her myself, personally. Whether that was enough to 'un-do' the infraction, after the patient left I would educate my employee on what I expect from him or her and that subsequent behavior could result in dismissal. Not every person's social skills, unfortunately, are salvageable, and I would have to act as a prudent administrator for my practice."

  16. 16.

    Family Practice is meant to be a primary care specialty, but even a graduate from such a program can’t do everything. Is there one discipline you’ll gravitate toward or eliminate within this far-reaching specialty?

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  17. 17.

    What do you feel is your greatest non-medical strength you can bring to the practice of Family Practice?

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  18. 18.

    Why do you feel we should choose you instead of someone whose scores are better?

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  19. 19.

    Medicine is changing more quickly than ever. Internet collaboration and telemedicine are now the new normal. Where do you see medicine going in the next 5 years, and what part do you intend to play?

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  20. 20.

    You see a nurse “pretend” to give a narcotic to your patient who is writhing in pain, her back turned to you. Then you see the medication in her pocket. What do you do?

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  21. 21.

    You and a/another male resident are attending an exam on a female patient. Your peer begins to ask the patient very intimate questions that are unrelated to the chief complaint. How would you intervene?

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