By Rafay Qureshi.
We all know interviews are among the most important days of your professional schooling career. This is your final chance to make that lasting impression to program directors, attendings, and residents before they submit their rankings. As a result, you are probably wondering what is the BEST way to prepare for these defining days. Unfortunately, the whole externship and interview process has so much variance that there is no single BEST way for each student to prepare that will satisfy every program and their evaluation of your performance. I wanted to break down the various components of the interview process as well as mention certain resources that I thought were the most helpful for me.
- Anything with Lower Extremity Anatomy
- Diabetic foot infections – osteomyelitis, gas gangrene, labs (CBC/BMP/ESR/CRP/coags, etc.), SIRS criteria, LRINEC score, etc
- Classifications – trauma, recon, melanoma, wounds, nerve injury
- Trauma – closed reduction steps, closed vs open fractures, tendon ruptures, etc
- First ray pathology – bunions, hallux limitus/rigidus
- Imaging (x-ray/CT/MRI reads) – all radiographic angles
- Antibiotics/Organisms – MRSA/Pseudo, oral vs IV, dosing for commonly prescribed drugs, renal dosing, peaks/troughs, gas-causing organisms, etc
- Flatfoot/cavus foot – classifications, soft tissue vs osseous procedures, angles
- AO principles, internal fixation, screws, plate types and indications
- Wound healing, bone healing, skin graft healing
General Study Material
As most of you may know, the “Big 3” resources most students seem to use for the externship/interview process are: the Crozer Manual, PRISM, and Watkins (AKA Pocket Pod). While these may be sufficient for many people, there is no single resource (yet!) that encompasses all that you need to know for the interview process
- Crozer Manual – excellent Q/A format designed for rapid-fire question practice during externships and certainly for interviews
- PRISM – the best interview resource out there. This book goes through systematically how to work up patients with most of the common pathologies, provides an excellent list of sample social/ethical questions, cites many of the classic articles that are associated with our profession. I would highly recommend knowing this well prior to interviews
- Watkins (Pocket Pod) – this is more for casual reading, not designed for interview preparation
- Your class notes for trauma/first ray/recon/surgery – they provide you with the foundational knowledge which you should be very familiar with and build upon
- Be familiar with “classic articles” and their methods/outcomes. Many of these are referenced in PRISM and have been talked about during your advanced coursework
As interview day approaches, mock interviews are the best utilization of your time to prepare. Grab a buddy and go through case workups in a SYSTEMATIC manner as you would during an actual interview. Being SYSTEMATIC is key. You want to know exactly what to ask for and what to order to show the interviewers your working knowledge of the fundamentals of encountering various pathology in their EDs and clinics.
- Upperclassmen and residents will often share mock interview files with you to practice
- PrePodiatryStudy.com is building a collection of mock interviews and this has and will continue to be a beneficial resource for students for years to come
Certain interviews are 30 minutes of straight rapid-fire on all aspects encompassing podiatric medicine (and even general medicine as well!). Being able to process these questions and answer them accurately with confidence is crucial to performing well. You either know it or you don’t. You will not get every single question right. That is completely OK. You do want to practice these types of questions often to get a majority correct. Repetition is key.
- Crozer – the most common resource for Q/A rapid-fire practice. I found it very useful
- Podiatry Rapid Fire Questions by Eric Shi – another great resource for extra rapid-fire practice, although not a must
- Rapid-fire documents – there are several files that fellow students and upperclassmen will circulate that are very helpful for this type of question format practice
- PrePodiatryStudy.com is also building a collection of common rapid-fire questions that will be available for students to practice from
This is an often neglected yet critical component of the interview process. Do not disregard this. You can crush your academic interviews but appear ill-prepared for your social interview may be detrimental to your overall evaluation. PRISM offers a great list of sample social and ethical questions that you should have answers prepared and rehearsed for. Practice answering these questions out loud to yourself or with a buddy. PrePodiatryStudy also has plenty of social questions with sample answers as well.
You also may occasionally encounter the unorthodox setting in which programs will ask you political questions about current events or tough situational or ethical questions. Much of this type of questioning is to see how you react under pressure. When answering ethical questions, keep in mind following the “chain of command” and keeping the patient’s well-being of utmost importance.
Lastly, KNOW YOUR CV! It is totally fair game for programs to ask you to elaborate on anything that you put on your CV. Research, blogs, leadership positions, clubs, past work experience, hobbies, skills, etc.
Some programs have a hand skills component to their interview. This may be evaluated independently or in conjunction with being asked rapid-fire questions to assess your ability to multitask effectively. This may involve things you can reasonably expect such as suturing, hand ties, demonstrating how to use proper surgical instrumentation (sagittal saws, screws, K-wire drilling, etc). They may ask you to do things that are challenging or something you won’t naturally expect, such as building an external fixator or TAR system, playing “Operation” or cornhole, flying mini drones, or molding your favorite foot bone out of a piece of clay.
Your best bet is to know how to suture and hand tie like it’s second nature and be mentally prepared to tackle any other hand skill obstacle some programs will throw at you on the spot. Keeping your composure is essential as well as making sure it doesn’t detract from your concentration if you are being asked rapid-fire questions concurringly.
To my knowledge, the majority of interviews DO NOT have a hand skills component, it is definitely a minority, however a very real possibility. It is a perfectly appropriate question to ask upperclassmen about their interview experiences to gauge which programs test hand skills. Even asking current residents how their program’s interview format is like to mentally anticipate what you may experience.
Everyone’s study method for interviews is different; therefore, it is imperative to pick the brains of upperclassmen (and residents you meet on externship) on what they thought was most helpful for them. Then, formulate your own study method based on how you learn, ensuring you are covering all the necessary components of the interview process.
Interviews can be stressful. They are your last hurrah as a student before transitioning to becoming a resident. Take preparation seriously, PRACTICE, and give it your best shot. Put yourselves on the other side of the table, ask yourself what you would like to see from a student, and do your best to exemplify that. I hope this summary has been useful and that you all excel in your interviews!
By Rafay Qureshi.
Hindsight in 2020
Special Edition, 4th year
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