Sample MMI Station: Role-Play
2 weeks ago by Chris
The Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) for medical admissions is challenging, in large part because of the considerable variation in station formats and topics. Role-play stations can be particularly challenging for students, and it is often hard to know how to approach these kinds of stations. In this blog I’ll break down a typical role-play station and offer some practical tips for fielding this unique question type.
Note: Only some universities use role-play stations as part of their MMI question lineup. Universities that have used these questions in the past include University of Newcastle (JMP), Bond University, University of Auckland, Western Sydney University, Charles Sturt University, University of Queensland, Curtin University, and Adelaide University. Universities vary their questions every year, so there is no guarantee that you’ll see such a question at these universities, or that other universities won’t include one!
Gastroenteritis (“gastro”) is a transient, typically viral, infection of the gastrointestinal tract. Features of the disease commonly include vomiting, fever, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and lethargy. Gastroenteritis-causing microorganisms can be spread through contaminated food or water, or by contact with an infected person. Despite patients’ subjective feelings of unwellness, gastroenteritis is not typically medically concerning; in mild to moderate cases, the only management required is administration of oral fluids (e.g. Hydralyte) and simple analgesia. Patients with very severe symptoms, such as a reduced level of consciousness, may require hospital management. In Australia, gastroenteritis causes only around 80 deaths annually.
You are a general practitioner, and you are seeing James, who rang your practice earlier today to book an urgent appointment. James presents with his four-year-old daughter, Maddy. He states that she has been vomiting and complaining of a sore tummy for the last 48 hours, ever since attending another child’s birthday party. You measure her temperature, which is elevated. You diagnose Maddy with gastroenteritis.
This is a role-play station. You will play the role of the general practitioner, and the interviewer will play the role of James. Please have a conversation with James; you will need to explain to him your diagnosis of gastroenteritis, and your management plan.
[Interviewer notes (not seen by student): James has a low level of health literacy. He is extremely concerned about his daughter’s well-being and is afraid that her disease could be life-threatening. In the consultation, he will be very agitated.]
Students are often unfamiliar with what is expected of them in these stations, which makes them difficult to respond to. Role-play stations can vary considerably, but there are some key features that tie them together. In particular, empathy is central to effectively responding to role-play stations.
As you are no doubt aware, empathy is an essential trait for medical students and doctors. In order to effectively carry out the role-play interaction, you will have to empathise with the character whom the interviewer is role-playing. If you can understand their feelings, needs, and perspectives, you will be able to effectively respond to them. This station is just like a real consultation in general practice: GPs see a broad range of patients, and have to understand them in order to engage with them.
In this case, an empathetic candidate will work out from the first few exchanges with James that he is very anxious about his daughter’s health. In response to this realisation, they will seek to rapidly reassure him that his daughter’s life is not in danger, and that he should not be concerned. Since James is agitated, it may be necessary to calm him down; it is important to remain calm and not become agitated or frustrated.
In this case, the prompt presents a large amount of information about gastroenteritis. While this will help you in educating James about the disease, it also functions as a distractor. There is more information here than you need; since James is anxious, if you tell him everything listed in the prompt he will probably become overwhelmed. James has a low level of health literacy, and may find certain things difficult to understand; you will have to work with him slowly and find simple ways to explain these concepts, rather than using the more complex medical language in the prompt (e.g. “Sometimes you get a bug in your tummy which can make you vomit. But usually it goes away on its own, and you don’t need to take any medicine or go to hospital.”) Further, telling him the statistic about deaths from gastroenteritis will likely concern him unduly. Empathy will help you determine what things are most important to the person you are communicating with, and how best to communicate these.
It is worth keeping in mind that while this station does have a goal (educating James about gastroenteritis), not all role-play stations will have an explicit goal. Moreover, interviewers are likely to be primarily interested in your ability to carry out the consultation effectively and in a patient-centred way, rather than completion of any provided objectives. Role-play stations are about the process of communication!
Role-play stations do not appear at all universities, but where they do appear they can be challenging. I hope this post has helped you understand how to tackle these kinds of questions. If you’re going to interview at a university that uses role-play stations in its interviews, I would recommend asking someone else to interview you using practice role-play questions, to help familiarise yourself with answering these questions as a back-and-forth between you and the interviewer. You can find plenty of practice for role play MMIs in MedEntry’s innovative MMI Bank.
Written by Callum, a current medical student, past MedEntry student and interview tutor.