Job Interview Practice Blog

An Interview with a Medical Student: @itsamedicslife

Over the last few weeks here at AvatarJo, we have been interviewing young medical students, who have been impacted in various ways by Covid-19, from shifts to online learning and video consultations, to being employed directly at the front lines (read about our interviews with @fastforwardstudent and @the.sassy.medic). You’d think that the difficulties young medics face these days might demotivate them to the extent that they might re-evaluate their decisions to study medicine. But the responses we’ve had from our interviews have overwhelmingly proved the opposite. @itsamedicslife, a fourth-year medical student and aspiring surgeon, is an awe-inspiring example of one of these strong and motivated people. She stated, full of confidence, that the pandemic “has made her even prouder to be following [her] dream of studying medicine. Seeing the impact that the medical staff are having on people during this unprecedented time is heart-warming and [she feels] proud to be in this field.” All her responses to our questions about her experiences throughout the pandemic were enormously optimistic – it’s obvious that she's a glass-half-full kind of person, which is exactly the kind of perspective the world needs in these times. She told us about how she had witnessed so many inspirational stories that it was difficult to choose only one to document here. In the end, she said the stories that had the strongest impact on her were “those from younger people in the community helping more elderly, vulnerable people. I have friends who have been shopping, picking up prescriptions and talking to their elderly neighbours and I think this is truly inspiring. It’s breaking down generational stereotypes, bridging the gap between two age groups and countering isolation during this difficult time. Not only is it positively impacting the elderly but giving and helping does wonders for mental health so I’m glad that young people are using their time so wisely to help others.” She also had an immense amount of perspective in telling us about the effects that this has all had on her personally. She appreciates that the pandemic “has jolted everyone’s lives and we’ve had to adapt to drastic changes very quickly”, and that “it was hard at the time”. Nonetheless, she emphasises the benefits that the experience has had on her future, saying it “has certainly made me more flexible to change and has allowed me to do exams/assignments in much harder situations.” She also highlights her newfound acceptance that “it is okay to not be okay." Overall, she feels she has “grown as a person, as well as a medical student." We also asked her about several things relating to what she had spoken about on her social media platform. In one of her recent posts she identifies a common struggle among medical students in their transitions from pre-clinical to clinical, mostly with regards to difficulties in communication. She says on her post that you can’t “learn how to talk” from textbooks, and she elaborated on this in our interview: “As doctors, our primary role will be speaking to patients. Yes, we’ll be diagnosing and treating these patients too but we can only do that by speaking to them first so I think it’s vital to learn how to build a rapport with all patients and learn how to be friendly and polite while also getting the information you need from them! It’s a skill I don’t think textbooks can ever teach us!Having said this, it is also crucial to develop your non-verbal communication skills. For example, I encountered a deaf patient on a stroke ward once who I had to take a history from. She was able to lip read well but I found it easier to have a written conversation with her as this put both of us in the same position. Of course, this took much longer than a spoken conversation but that’s just another thing you learn as a medical student: patience is key!” She exercises a similar patience when encountering non-English speakers. She told us about how she sometimes encounters Hindi/Gujarati/Punjabi speaking patients, and since she speaks Hindi herself, would try to communicate with them in their own language. But this is not as easy as you’d think! She says “I found that it is harder asking medical questions in Hindi than it is to just have a simple chat. I used aids around the room such as posters of various conditions to help aid these consultations. This has taught me to use my surroundings to my advantage and has made me realise I need to practice medical terms in Hindi!” On her Instagram, she also speaks very openly about mental health. With the high stress levels of a medical degree and the added challenges brought about by this unprecedented time, it is no surprise that medical students often struggle with their mental health. We are moved to see people like @itsamedicslife using her platform to remove the stigma around it. During our interview she explained her own coping mechanisms, which serve as helpful suggestions to anyone else who might be struggling: “I find mindfulness and meditation extremely useful and a way that this can be achieved in a hospital setting is to really focus on the task at hand. For example, try to be fully present when taking a history or doing a clinical skill and try not to think about the people watching you doing this task. This way, not only will you perform better because you’re less conscious of what people think of you, but you’re being mindful which can have a very positive effect on your mental health.” She also makes sure to bring up the importance of food: “If I am hungry, I can feel tasks that would usually be easy weighing me down so I ensure that I carry a small snack in my pocket for when I’m walking between wards. When you get home from placement, try to do nothing medicine-related for at least the first half an hour. Go and chat to your housemates or watch Netflix or read or do yoga, just have some you time to unwind before starting notes or revision.” Thank you to @itsamedicslife for her time, and for all these helpful and optimistic insights. It really was a pleasure to speak to her. Are you a medical student? Do you have things to say about your experiences? Would you like to be featured on our website and social media? Get in touch via our @avatarjo_medical Instagram to do an online interview, and you will receive a voucher to attend one of our sessions as part of our #FindTheRightWords Online Festival for Medics! Or register your interest in the event HERE!

An Interview with a Medical Student: @the.sassy.medic

For #TakeoverTuesday, we interviewed @the.sassy.medic, who shared some thoughts with us about how she feels as a Med Student during this time. Her reflections were insightful, and we would love to share them with you all. When asked if this pandemic has made her question or reconsider studying medicine at times, she replied that it has not “in no way whatsoever.” She continued to say “If anything, it has made me even more passionate about my career and the people I can help. I’ve always had a realistic view of Medicine and know that pandemics are incredibly challenging, but they are a part of a career in healthcare.” She spoke about the countless amazing stories she has heard during the pandemic. However, for her, the most inspirational thing she has seen is “the way members of the public and businesses have got behind the emergency services and the NHS. Across the country people have been dropping off fresh food and treats to staff havens and ambulance stations! Seeing the huge positive impact this has had on frontline workers’ well-being has been incredible!” Speaking about the difficulties of communicating with patients whilst in PPE, she states how it is important to remember that it can be nerve-racking for the patients and that those “who communicate via lip reading can feel incredibly isolated.” “Lockdown as a medical student has been challenging. Changing to online learning hasn’t been something I’ve found easy[…]” After we asked her about how she has coped with her studies, she shared that “lockdown as a Medical Student has been challenging.” She has not found the transition to online learning an easy one. However, she is very grateful to her university for trying to provide her with the same content that she would have had if face-to-face teaching was still available. Then, speaking about how she has been looking after her mental health, she shared that “I have been talking to my family on a regular basis. Walking my dogs has allowed me to get out of the house daily, they have really helped boost my mood when I have been feeling down. I have also been trying to make the most of the time at home by finishing jobs around the house that I haven’t had time to do while at university.” Finally, when asked if she feels she has grown because of this experience, she explained that “it has made me appreciate things more, especially the small things!” Thank you again to @the.sassy.medic for her time. It was really amazing to hear about her personal experience. If you would be interested in being interviewed for either #MedStudentMonday or #TakeoverTuesday, we would absolutely love for you to get in touch (DM us on Instagram @avatarjo_medical). As a thank you for your time we will send you a voucher to participate in one of our extra special events that will be taking place at the end of July – stay tuned for more information.

An Interview with a Medical Student: @fastforwardstudent

At AvatarJo, we had the pleasure of interviewing @fastforwardstudent, a first-year medic at Leeds Medical School. We spoke to her about several topics ranging from the impact that COVID-19 has had on her studies, to how it has shifted her perspective on medicine and what it means to be a doctor. We asked her if this pandemic has made her question or reconsider her choice to study medicine, seeing how hard it has been for those working on the frontline. However, she said that “we have always known that healthcare staff are on the frontline, that working in the field is mentally exhausting, not paid well, and a lot of the time goes without recognition. So, in that sense it has not affected [her] decision, although it has provided the public a scoop into what life as a HCP [Health Care Professional] is like.” “It gave me hope that though our family members are by themselves in hospital they are being taken care of by conscientious staff.” When asked about if there had been an inspirational story or a story of triumph that she has heard during the pandemic that resonates with her and what impact it has had on her, she cited a story published on the Instagram account @ilmfeed. The story talks about an NHS doctor, Farah Farzana, who was on a night shift, when she had to review a patient who had been admitted with COVID-19. Farzana was briefed by a nurse on the Pakistani gentleman’s condition, which was severe, worsened by his state of confusion. It was only when Farzana began to speak to him did she understand the reason for this bewilderment. The man, who spoke Urdu, was unable to understand the other staff he had encountered, meaning he was panicking, not knowing what was happening. As Farzana began to speak to him in Urdu, his “eyes [began to] fill up with tears and hope.” She was able to console and comfort him, staying by his side as long as she could within a busy hospital environment, as he felt so frightened and alone. Farzana reflects that her “heart breaks for the minority patients, with language barriers,” as without family members to translate, they must feel helpless. This amazing story truly speaks to how the NHS’ strength lies in the diversity and compassion of its staff. It is stories like these that have inspired AvatarJo’s #findtherightwords campaign, which champions these moments and helps to provide the skills to replicate this support and understanding. @fastforwardstudent says this is an example of a “doctor that went out of her way to comfort a patient[...]” She explained that amongst the many stories she has read, this touching post really stuck with her as “it gave [her] hope that though our family members are by themselves in hospital, they are being taken care of by conscientious staff.” Furthermore, she states that it made her think of how she would like to act towards her future patients. Talking about how she and her university have adapted to the transition from face-to-face to online teaching, she admits that it is all a bit overwhelming and was shocking at first moving completely online. However, she explains that the university has had to make a lot of changes in the way they are taught and examined. For instance, how the situation would affect their Educational Performance Measure (EMP). She confesses that it is difficult to motivate herself, a feeling most students can empathise with. One of the sources of motivation for her is other students posting inspirational advice on Instagram. She can speak to most of her friends, thanks to social media, and is also making sure to look after her mental health. To do this, she is making sure to take regular breaks and not to focus on one topic or subject for too long, ensuring her days have variety. Yet, she does feel that more events that focus on developing students’ social skills, mainly relating to patient interaction are needed. Especially given that most students have had their placements cancelled, as it would help to ease them back into a clinical setting. “[…]I've realised is that as a doctor your job is not just to treat the patient but it's also to comfort them where you can, because I've realised that a healthy mental state is important for a healthy physical state.” Our final question was whether she felt like she has grown as a young medic or whether her thinking has altered in response to this pandemic. Her response was extremely inspiring, as it exemplified how she has used this time as a learning experience, drawing valuable lessons from it, that will impact on her future career. She expressed that her thinking has indeed shifted and she now realises the intrinsic value of communication with other medics, explaining it is essential to see what is going on at other hospitals in order to incorporate them at your own. Something that really stood out to us was when she explained that she has become aware that “as a doctor your job is not just to treat the patient but it’s also to comfort them where you can” because she acknowledges that “a healthy mental state is important for a healthy physical state.” Moreover, she has rendered more open to change and variation in light of how fast guidelines on PPE, drugs, visitation etc. have been changing, also highlighting the need for medics to keep up with the news. On a more negative note, she remarks about how she has realised how prolific racism is within the healthcare industry. She laments the government’s failure to respond to messages from BAME doctors, stating that “it felt as though they only began looking into the higher mortality rates amongst the BAME UK population once the Black Lives Matter protests began and people began demanding it.” Then, she went onto explain how she has learnt from this experience that health factors are not always the reason for a higher mortality rate, it is also influenced by socio-economic factors too, including racial bias. It was really our pleasure to speak to @fastforwardstudent and we would like to thank her for her time. It is amazing to see young medics using their platform to address topics that matter and educate others in the industry! If you would be interested in being interviewed for either #MedStudentMonday or #TakeoverTuesday, we would absolutely love for you to get in touch (DM us on Instagram @avatarjo_medical). As a thank you for your time we will send you a voucher to participate in one of our extra special events that will be taking place at the end of July – stay tuned for more information.

Confidence in your Career

It’s the night before your big interview with that dream company. Butterflies in your stomach? Finding it hard to eat or sleep? Sweaty palms and a racing heart? These are all common and normal physical manifestations of nerves and anxiety that many experience before important events such as job interviews. Confidence is something many struggle with, not only in their personal life but in their work life as well. Lack of confidence can affect how you perceive and present yourself and in turn how others perceive and receive you. It is well known that first impressions are important, and it has been argued that people form opinions about us within the first few moments of meeting. The same can be said for job interviews. One way in which to ensure the first impression you give in an interview is a memorable one is to learn how to boost your confidence and how to appear confidence even if you don’t feel it! Practice is the cornerstone to success and fortunately confidence can be learnt and practiced. Confidence should not be thought of as something you either have or you don’t, something you are born with or you are not but rather a skill that can be learnt and shaped! There are many techniques that can be taught and adopted in order to improve your self-confidence: 1. Cut the negative self-talk! 2. Maintain eye contact – This will ensure you come across as confident and assured. 3. Smile! This will help to relax you AND the interviewer. 4. Talk slowly – This will help you to formulate your ideas more clearly and help you feel more sure of yourself. These are just a few examples of active techniques you can practice in order to boost your confidence and help you nail that interview. AvatarJo is a great service that offers live online interview practice so that you can learn how to build and improve your confidence before having your real job interview. The skill of developing your confidence is not something that will just benefit you in that all-important job interview but for the whole of your academic career and personal life so start practicing now!

10 Top Tips for Job Interview Practice

Do you want to know how to really ace that big interview? Want to build confidence and turn your weaknesses into strengths? Look no further! AvatarJo presents 10 top tips for how to prepare to not just survive the interviewing process, but to thrive and shine. 1. Practice makes perfect: Ah, that overused saying that has been recycled for eternity. But it really is true. Though no interview will ever be 'perfect', using mock interviews to rehearse for the real deal will undoubtedly help, as experience is at the heart of learning. One way to do this would be using a friend or family member to talk through some questions. However, our specially trained actors will use the details you specify to replicate the dynamics of real job interviews. Our sessions are stress-free test runs in which you will receive instant, valuable, and constructive feedback on your performance. 2. Identify type of interview: The type of interview could alter how you need to practice. How formal is it? Is it a group or individual interview? 3. Create a list of common interview questions: The same questions appear time and time again within interviews. Researching ahead of the interview will help to eliminate elements of the guesswork involved. Like preparing for an exam, flashcards are handy; write a question and then jot down the key points you would include in an answer. Do not script responses! This will appear forced and unnatural. Instead, use bullet points and practice talking around them. 4. Research: You would not take an exam without studying, so why would you go to an interview without researching and practising beforehand. Cultural fit questions, such as “why do you want to work at our company?”, rely on a knowledge of the business. Hiring managers will remember you if your answers are tailored to the company’s values. 5. Work on your weaknesses: Mock interviews will help you to identify where both your weaknesses and strengths lie. Open and honest feedback is essential. You might be speaking too quickly for them to understand, or you might be rambling. 6. Play to your strengths: If you are a great storyteller, include anecdotes relevant to the question. Trying out your answers on someone will allow you to see if your responses have the desired effect. 7. Think first impressions: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” An interviewer will formulate an opinion based on the first four seconds of meeting someone. It is hard to know how you come across. Friends and family, although we love them, often lack objectivity. So, having a stranger interview you will give you new insights into how to make a positive first impression. 8. Body language/Smile: Similarly, your body language contributes to the way in which you are perceived by others. Even if you are a nervous wreck, the right body language and a simple smile can communicate confidence and enthusiasm. 9. Keep positive: “Nobody likes a Negative Nancy.” You need to practice using positive vocabulary, as this will contribute to your likeability, even if it is subconsciously. For instance, if asked about your weaknesses, highlight an area in which you have previously struggled. Then, move swiftly on to explain how you are working to grow and develop. This will show self-awareness and proactivity. 10. Visualisation: Using visualisation techniques can help to reduce anxiety and inspire self-belief. Whilst practising, visualise your interviews. Also, creating a memory of a successful interview can help to achieve this confidence-boosting effect. Want to create a memory of a positive and rewarding interview experience? Book a session with AvatarJo today. We’ll help you to put your best foot forward: https://www.avatarjo.co.uk/interview-practice Or contact us if you have any questions: +44 (0) 1736 791 751

Self care and tech adoption.

Self care comes in many forms. Avoiding stress must be one of the most appealing. Multiple surveys have cited 'burn out' as a massive cause for concern among GPs and trainee GPs. Well, with the arrival of Covid19 no matter who you are, that burn out is likely to be looking you in the eye right now. So pause, breathe and look it back in the eye. Remind yourself that you know how to not just work hard, but work smart. Taking care of yourself is the number one smart move for you, your patients and your family. Be proud that you are part of an amazing team and tell yourself it's now time to make life easier, smoother and less stressful. Technology is supposed to make life easier, however in a high pressure environment learning new technology can be stressful. Training guides and instructions are not the same as an 'in the field' experiences, so when you start using it and it doesn't work or it's a bit clunky, the energy spent seems such a waste of critical time. Quite rightly this can prompt you to feel fearful or stressed next time around or mean you avoid using it all together. With so much rapid change being part of our everyday, the kindest, smartest, most helpful and stress reducing thing do is make time to master the technology. An investment that can save time and improve your sense of connection and continuity with your patients. Video calls have increased the number of people that can be seen safely by GPs and of course video adoption is an obvious step in the right direction, but as we know, when 'computer says no' the stress levels rise very quickly. Just like medicine, there is a manual, but the patients haven't read it. Video consultations are a whole new skill set of not just being a doctor, but being a video call host. Its not just about pressing the right buttons, or fixing the lighting, there are all manner of tiny little skills that can be mastered to make your web-side manner as good as your bedside manner. Most of these critical time and stress saving skills can be learned in just one or a couple of 15 minute training sessions. The kindness to yourself of feeling confident and in control is self care that protects from future burnout. In an ever-changing world, practising with technology is a learning habit that will stand you in good stead. Whether you practice to develop safer video consulting techniques, slicker video consulting techniques, because you are one of the many technically challenged among us, because your 'soft skills' go a bit haywire when via video, or because you want to work from home, video is here to stay so treat yourself to making it your friend. Make self care part of your new normal. We're here to help. www.avatarjo.co.uk/medical. We genuinely care that our service supports your health as well as that of your patients.

COVID19: "Beware Super Hero Syndrome"

Beware SUPER HERO SYNDROME. Times of crisis deliver huge amounts of adrenalin, which is designed to help us move more quickly but not necessarily, think more wisely. In a time when the NHS becomes a gold plated hero factory, and rightly so, it needs to be someone’s job to ensure that the combination of ‘caped crusaders’ in tech adoption and our default, ‘stick to what I know in a crisis’ habits, do not leave behind important and highly valued wisdom, that in print, the NHS says is important. Although my business, AvatarJo will benefit greatly from the migration to via video consultations, I am witnessing a significant disregard for NHS priorities in developing and testing patient feedback loops or providing adequate communications training to front line staff. As a data driven sector, the sheer volume of communications is indicative that small changes can make a big difference and it is therefore worth spending at least a small amount of time and resources on simulated training, to elicit not just time saving communication habits, but emotional safe guarding communication habits for clinical staff. They deserve an emotional PPE kit and collectively the COVID19 Call To Arms Forum, of which I am part, has the resources to deliver it. I hope someone has the authority make this part of the call to arms…. or should it be ‘call to care’? There’s a macho aspect to a lot of language at the moment, we should reflect on that. Our behaviour saves lives. Our behaviour is impacted most by communication. If time is of the essence, if lives are important, if clinician well-being is important, then this is my heads-up; test, get feedback, tweak and share the communication data at the same rate as the infection levels etc. and ensure the essence of being human stands side by side with progress in other areas. Just imagine the legacy of that work.

Video consultations for covid-19

The rapid spread of covid-19, and the fact that healthcare facilities could be sources of contagion, has focused attention on new models of care that avoid face-to-face contact between clinician and patient. There has been particular interest in video consultations, which are already being rolled out in many countries as part of national digital health strategies.123 Read the whole article here. https://www.bmj.com/content/368/bmj.m998

SPEEDY EMPATHY

YES, YES, YES

What I have learnt about empathy from working with GPs.

“Doctors run out of it in the afternoon”. “Recruitment should be based on empathy scores”. “Patients live longer when they have an empathetic GP”. Empathy is a hot topic, but how do you know you’re doing it right? After 22 years of being part of GP Consultations Skills training, I have witnessed the full range of great to poor examples of empathy in action. My work as an NLP practitioner and professional theatre director has given me the opportunity to translate empathy into tangible behaviours, which I share at the end of this article. So what words, behaviour and actions deliver empathy? GIVING AND RECEIVING EMPATHY. It’s a natural inclination to label our actions by our intentions or self-perception, by which I mean, we think we are being kind because we believe we have kind intentions, or we think we are being empathetic because we view ourselves to be. But are we? Empathy is best measured by the receiver and not the giver. If a small child falls over and squeals an adult might rush in and say, "Ow that must have hurt". It is reasonable to view it as empathy, however, the child who wants to be brave will have none of it and deny any pain and be upset that their bravery is not acknowledged. The attempt at empathy is given without information from the perspective of the child's view. Empathy is all about the person's perspective, it is not necessary to ‘feel with’ but to step in, enquire and gather information then stand alongside to truly acknowledge and understand. Helping someone who is seeking help, ideally turns one person with a problem into a two-person team. The aim in any conversation where you want to be empathetic should be to listen, understand the challenges, understand the person's needs, discover what a good outcome would be for them and establish ways to reach that outcome . This can be merely helping someone get perspective, making a plan, or rolling up your sleeves and getting on with it. Being genuinely understood and acknowledged is just the best feeling ever, regardless of what help or intervention is practical or possible. This is why it is such good medicine. TIME, MONEY AND FREQUENT ATTENDERS The current enthusiasm for the power of empathy is rightly fuelled by a range of positive elements including research data, patient feedback to the cultural desire to be part of a kinder more human world. In consultation settings, the ‘short of time’ mantra that buzzes around the NHS does much to condense and inform the self-regulating of empathic indulgences, which then pushes people to fast track a form of lip service to the whole empathy thing. This approach may appear to save time, but it does the opposite, people come back again and again in an attempt to be understood. The fear about using too much of it in a professional setting, as it might wear you down or slow you down, is common. In reality, empathy skills, like most things, can be developed, but more importantly, when used properly can save energy and deliver real feel-good benefits for both sides. At AvatarJo we are humbled daily by the humility and curiosity of our clients, with breakthrough learning often bringing tears of joy when light bulb moments hit and a particular patient or whole patient cohorts suddenly lose their heart-sink label. Here is my practical guide to empathy: UNDERSTAND THE PERSON FULLY ENQUIRE - Don’t guess and don’t project. Ask open questions initially. Find out the current situation, what led up to it, the good and bad. Find out what success/better outcome they’d like to happen next. Ask if they would like help with a specific part of their challenge or problem and what that is in more detail (if needed). LISTEN – Pay exquisite attention, note the detail. ACKNOWLEDGE – Using the same words, phrases and information that the person speaking uses. Make statements of empathy, acknowledge what you have heard. You know these are true and accurate if the person responds with a ‘yes’. CREATE A SAFE SPACE - You can use one or all three of the following: 1: Congratulate the person for coping, taking action, seeking help. 2: Show gratitude, thank them for trusting you, telling you, ‘it’s good that you came in' etc. 3: Declare your intention, “I can help you get that sorted if you like?", "I’m here to listen", "I’m happy to explore ways to get this sorted". MAKE A PLAN AS A TEAM - Before giving an opinion or making any suggestions: 1: Acknowledge the goal, what success would look like e.g. "So ideally if we could get you pain-free and back playing with your grandchildren that would be fantastic for you?” Again a "yes" or a smile will tell you if you’re on the right track. 2: Ask if they have ideas on how they want to approach it or what would help most. 3: Ask if you can offer some solutions for them to consider? 4: Tell them what you can do to help, or would like to make happen. 4: Draw up a list of actions that involve both of you in some way. CHECK BACK - With the person. Ask: “How does that feel?” “Will that be a good outcome for you?” “Does that sound like a good plan?” “Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?” “How do you feel now?” “Has this been helpful?” ASK YOURSELF - How do I feel? And reflect what type of approach feels good for you too. There are many more layers to empathy and plenty of ways to up-skill and refine your empathy skills, get in touch if you would like to discover more. sarah.lincoln@avatarjo.com “Doctors run out of it in the afternoon”. “Recruitment should be based on empathy scores”. “Patients live longer when they have an empathetic GP”. Empathy is a hot topic, but how do you know you’re doing it right? After 22 years of being part of GP Consultations Skills training, I have witnessed the full range of great to poor examples of empathy in action. My work as an NLP practitioner and professional theatre director has given me the opportunity to translate empathy into tangible behaviours, which I share at the end of this article. So what words, behaviour and actions deliver empathy? GIVING AND RECEIVING EMPATHY. It’s a natural inclination to label our actions by our intentions or self-perception, by which I mean, we think we are being kind because we believe we have kind intentions, or we think we are being empathetic because we view ourselves to be. But are we? Empathy is best measured by the receiver and not the giver. If a small child falls over and squeals an adult might rush in and say, "Ow that must have hurt". It is reasonable to view it as empathy, however, the child who wants to be brave will have none of it and deny any pain and be upset that their bravery is not acknowledged. The attempt at empathy is given without information from the perspective of the child's view. Empathy is all about the person's perspective, it is not necessary to ‘feel with’ but to step in, enquire and gather information then stand alongside to truly acknowledge and understand. Helping someone who is seeking help, ideally turns one person with a problem into a two-person team. The aim in any conversation where you want to be empathetic should be to listen, understand the challenges, understand the person's needs, discover what a good outcome would be for them and establish ways to reach that outcome . This can be merely helping someone get perspective, making a plan, or rolling up your sleeves and getting on with it. Being genuinely understood and acknowledged is just the best feeling ever, regardless of what help or intervention is practical or possible. This is why it is such good medicine. TIME, MONEY AND FREQUENT ATTENDERS The current enthusiasm for the power of empathy is rightly fuelled by a range of positive elements including research data, patient feedback to the cultural desire to be part of a kinder more human world. In consultation settings, the ‘short of time’ mantra that buzzes around the NHS does much to condense and inform the self-regulating of empathic indulgences, which then pushes people to fast track a form of lip service to the whole empathy thing. This approach may appear to save time, but it does the opposite, people come back again and again in an attempt to be understood. The fear about using too much of it in a professional setting, as it might wear you down or slow you down, is common. In reality, empathy skills, like most things, can be developed, but more importantly, when used properly can save energy and deliver real feel-good benefits for both sides. At AvatarJo we are humbled daily by the humility and curiosity of our clients, with breakthrough learning often bringing tears of joy when light bulb moments hit and a particular patient or whole patient cohorts suddenly lose their heart-sink label. Here is my practical guide to empathy: UNDERSTAND THE PERSON FULLY ENQUIRE - Don’t guess and don’t project. Ask open questions initially. Find out the current situation, what led up to it, the good and bad. Find out what success/better outcome they’d like to happen next. Ask if they would like help with a specific part of their challenge or problem and what that is in more detail (if needed). LISTEN – Pay exquisite attention, note the detail. ACKNOWLEDGE – Using the same words, phrases and information that the person speaking uses. Make statements of empathy, acknowledge what you have heard. You know these are true and accurate if the person responds with a ‘yes’. CREATE A SAFE SPACE - You can use one or all three of the following: 1: Congratulate the person for coping, taking action, seeking help. 2: Show gratitude, thank them for trusting you, telling you, ‘it’s good that you came in' etc. 3: Declare your intention, “I can help you get that sorted if you like?", "I’m here to listen", "I’m happy to explore ways to get this sorted". MAKE A PLAN AS A TEAM - Before giving an opinion or making any suggestions: 1: Acknowledge the goal, what success would look like e.g. "So ideally if we could get you pain-free and back playing with your grandchildren that would be fantastic for you?” Again a "yes" or a smile will tell you if you’re on the right track. 2: Ask if they have ideas on how they want to approach it or what would help most. 3: Ask if you can offer some solutions for them to consider? 4: Tell them what you can do to help, or would like to make happen. 4: Draw up a list of actions that involve both of you in some way. CHECK BACK - With the person. Ask: “How does that feel?” “Will that be a good outcome for you?” “Does that sound like a good plan?” “Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?” “How do you feel now?” “Has this been helpful?” ASK YOURSELF - How do I feel? And reflect what type of approach feels good for you too. There are many more layers to empathy and plenty of ways to up-skill and refine your empathy skills, get in touch if you would like to discover more. sarah.lincoln@avatarjo.com “Doctors run out of it in the afternoon”. “Recruitment should be based on empathy scores”. “Patients live longer when they have an empathetic GP”. Empathy is a hot topic, but how do you know you’re doing it right? After 22 years of being part of GP Consultations Skills training, I have witnessed the full range of great to poor examples of empathy in action. My work as an NLP practitioner and professional theatre director has given me the opportunity to translate empathy into tangible behaviours, which I share at the end of this article. So what words, behaviour and actions deliver empathy? GIVING AND RECEIVING EMPATHY. It’s a natural inclination to label our actions by our intentions or self-perception, by which I mean, we think we are being kind because we believe we have kind intentions, or we think we are being empathetic because we view ourselves to be. But are we? Empathy is best measured by the receiver and not the giver. If a small child falls over and squeals an adult might rush in and say, "Ow that must have hurt". It is reasonable to view it as empathy, however, the child who wants to be brave will have none of it and deny any pain and be upset that their bravery is not acknowledged. The attempt at empathy is given without information from the perspective of the child's view. Empathy is all about the person's perspective, it is not necessary to ‘feel with’ but to step in, enquire and gather information then stand alongside to truly acknowledge and understand. Helping someone who is seeking help, ideally turns one person with a problem into a two-person team. The aim in any conversation where you want to be empathetic should be to listen, understand the challenges, understand the person's needs, discover what a good outcome would be for them and establish ways to reach that outcome . This can be merely helping someone get perspective, making a plan, or rolling up your sleeves and getting on with it. Being genuinely understood and acknowledged is just the best feeling ever, regardless of what help or intervention is practical or possible. This is why it is such good medicine. TIME, MONEY AND FREQUENT ATTENDERS The current enthusiasm for the power of empathy is rightly fuelled by a range of positive elements including research data, patient feedback to the cultural desire to be part of a kinder more human world. In consultation settings, the ‘short of time’ mantra that buzzes around the NHS does much to condense and inform the self-regulating of empathic indulgences, which then pushes people to fast track a form of lip service to the whole empathy thing. This approach may appear to save time, but it does the opposite, people come back again and again in an attempt to be understood. The fear about using too much of it in a professional setting, as it might wear you down or slow you down, is common. In reality, empathy skills, like most things, can be developed, but more importantly, when used properly can save energy and deliver real feel-good benefits for both sides. At AvatarJo we are humbled daily by the humility and curiosity of our clients, with breakthrough learning often bringing tears of joy when light bulb moments hit and a particular patient or whole patient cohorts suddenly lose their heart-sink label. Here is my practical guide to empathy: UNDERSTAND THE PERSON FULLY ENQUIRE - Don’t guess and don’t project. Ask open questions initially. Find out the current situation, what led up to it, the good and bad. Find out what success/better outcome they’d like to happen next. Ask if they would like help with a specific part of their challenge or problem and what that is in more detail (if needed). LISTEN – Pay exquisite attention, note the detail. ACKNOWLEDGE – Using the same words, phrases and information that the person speaking uses. Make statements of empathy, acknowledge what you have heard. You know these are true and accurate if the person responds with a ‘yes’. CREATE A SAFE SPACE - You can use one or all three of the following: 1: Congratulate the person for coping, taking action, seeking help. 2: Show gratitude, thank them for trusting you, telling you, ‘it’s good that you came in' etc. 3: Declare your intention, “I can help you get that sorted if you like?", "I’m here to listen", "I’m happy to explore ways to get this sorted". MAKE A PLAN AS A TEAM - Before giving an opinion or making any suggestions: 1: Acknowledge the goal, what success would look like e.g. "So ideally if we could get you pain-free and back playing with your grandchildren that would be fantastic for you?” Again a "yes" or a smile will tell you if you’re on the right track. 2: Ask if they have ideas on how they want to approach it or what would help most. 3: Ask if you can offer some solutions for them to consider? 4: Tell them what you can do to help, or would like to make happen. 4: Draw up a list of actions that involve both of you in some way. CHECK BACK - With the person. Ask: “How does that feel?” “Will that be a good outcome for you?” “Does that sound like a good plan?” “Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?” “How do you feel now?” “Has this been helpful?” ASK YOURSELF - How do I feel? And reflect what type of approach feels good for you too. There are many more layers to empathy and plenty of ways to up-skill and refine your empathy skills, get in touch if you would like to discover more. sarah.lincoln@avatarjo.com #bloggingtips #WixBlog

GP Trainer Delivers Verdict on via video role-play.

Client and GP Trainer, Dr Matt Bull writes about his approach to working with the AvatarJo via video role-play service. USING ON-LINE SIMULATED PATIENT INTERACTIONS TO IMPROVE MEDICAL STUDENTS' COMMUNICATION SKILLS IN A PRIMARY HEALTHCARE SETTING *Bull M1, Fell2 L, Agashi S3 1,2Three Spires Medical Practice, Truro, 3University of Exeter Medical School, Truro, Cornwall Introduction Practising challenging interactions in a safe, structured environment in primary healthcare can be difficult. We present early results of a 2019 pilot using online, live simulations with Avatar Jo actors to enhance students' communication skills in complex areas of consultation such as breaking bad news, suicidal ideation and end of life decisions. Development of such skills is an important part of the General Medical Council’s Outcomes for Graduates 2018. Method 1. The Avatar Jo actor receives a detailed history for a fictional patient prior to the learning event and a 30 minute online appointment is booked. 2. Medical students identify an area of complex consultations skills that they would like to practice. 3. The group of students (ranging from 2-6) meet with a GP educational supervisor in a room with a webcam enabled computer. Each student has the opportunity to interact live with the actor with student peers observing on a separate screen. 4. Timeouts, playbacks and feedback from the actor enable skills to be identified and developed and can be practised immediately. 5. Each student receives a copy of their own simulated interaction for use in their reflective portfolio and conversations with their Professional Development Group Tutors. 6. The same patient interaction can be repeated during subsequent placements to build confidence and show progress Results Initial results of this pilot suggest the use of role-playing and simulated patient practice as a part of a structured, supported, reflective learning environment has a positive impact on students’ communication skills in primary healthcare. Example student feedback includes: “I learnt a lot from listening to others, giving feedback and having a go myself”; “Was able to talk to a frail patient early in the morning and was able to transition this experience into information giving and consultation skill improvement later on in the afternoon via virtual acting.” Conclusion This methodology is more efficient, flexible, cost-effective and reproducible compared to traditional group role–play and represents a useful addition to community-based learning. It provides superb longitudinal learning opportunities with multiple potential training applications across all healthcare teams. We will continue the pilot on a larger scale in 2019-20 and will evaluate the results of this intervention. For further information or enquiries: Dr Matt Bull, is happy to talk to anyone about his work, process and use of via video role-play training and coaching. Email: matthew.bull2@nhs.net For enquiries about buying or booking sessions please contact, Sarah Lincoln email: sarah.lincoln@avatarjo.com Tel: 07877 253573. www.avatarjo.co.uk #GP #trainees #NHS #medicalschool #CSA #VTS

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