Podcast Notes and Takeaways – 2021 Interview Official Royal College of Ophthalmologists podcast

We’ve summarised what we thought were some of the key points from the Eye To Eye Podcast hosted by The Royal College of Ophthalmologists. If you didn’t know, every year, one of the key organisers of national recruitment hosts a 25-30 minute QnA session where common questions about national recruitment are answered. It offers an itneresting insight into how the process is organised, structured, and gives real insight into what they are trying to test for. The podcast notes below are our take-aways. The original link of the fantastic podcast is here : https://www.rcophth.ac.uk/standards-publications-research/eye-to-eye-podcast/

Podcast Notes

The podcast is between the host and the lead of national recruitment, Sarah Maling.

  • What were the reasons for switching to virtual
    • Consultants not able to be released to recruitment, restrictions on travel, and COVID-19
    • Sarah gave assurance that this was not a convenience based decision, and the process aims to fairly select the best candidates.
  • How did they decide on just one communication-based patient consultation station?
    • They sub-analysed the previous four recruitment stations
    • They picked essentially communication because it was felt that this was the most important distinguisher of what made a successful junior ophthalmologist.
    • They know from previous years that testing clinical skills, quality improvement station, critical appraisal, that most of these were actually assessed as part of the portfolio station. However, there is little replacement for testing communication skills beyond seeing how someone performs in a consultation.
  • “It’s interesting that you wont be testing clinical skills at all”Will clinical knowledge be tested?
    • This is not true – Sarah refutes this, and argues that any professional clinical discussion involves a lot of clinical knowledge.
  • Acknowledgement the process is new – but set up to be fair
    • Sarah acknowledges that it can be daunting or scary, but underscored that they are trying to test the level of skill for a good doctor.
    • The aim is to produce a reproducible, fair, that affords every candidate an equal opportunity for training.
    • A huge number of consultants have signed up to help, all of them undergo workshops to standardise grading.
    • Actually 3 workshops a day currently being run for interviewers to be skilled up prior to examining.
    • There is Independent overseeing of the interviews by non-examiners to standardise the process and make sure grading is fair.
  • Technical Issues will be expected, and there are plans to handle this
    • They can be as prepared as possible -for every technical difficulty that can be thought of, there is a plan in place.
    • For example, if a candidate can’t access it due to a legitimate reason – an alternative time can be given
    • If there are connection issues – the timer will be paused, hence the lengthy 30 minute slots
    • There is technical support and additional days allocated in case of genuine technical issues leading to missed interviews
  • What if I get ill and is unable to conduct an interview from home?
    • They will need to have a doctor’s note, trust and manager’s note, just as if they were missing the actual interview.
    • There may be additional days for a later sitting, but the advice is all the previous exam-condition requirements will apply
  • A brief note on MSRA
    • This is running as planned currently
    • The scoring breakdown has been changed as per Severn Deanery Site
  • How long is the actual interview?
    • There is a strict time-limit to 10 minutes currently – Sarah has confirmed this
    • She has said the actual time of the consultation can vary between 4 minutes to 30 minutes, but will be strictly enforeced.
    • (Taking in what is on the Severn Deanery website… we can assume the cap is 10 minutes unless this changes)
  • Who will be watching you?
    • There are two consultants watching you
    • You cannot see the consultants.
  • This is an interview – act as if you are with a patient
    • This means making sure your background is appropriate – she mentions a “clinically appropriate” background.
  • How should you practice this?
    • You need to be sure you are comfortable with practicing online interactions
  • Should i do this on desktop or mobile?
    • Both are appropriate
    • The best quality of audio and video is the best regardless of the platform.
    • The best way to get comfortable with this interview process is to practice
  • A note on the Portfolio
    • The publication score has changed from 10 to 5 points – how has this been decided?
      • The point allocation for everything has changed due to a change in section weighting
      • However, the overall portfolio weighting has not changed dramatically
      • Also notice the MSRA weighting has changed as well – with more emphasis on portfolio
      • Overall, the 5 points will still weigh in as heavily now that portfolio has had greater emphasis.
    • Two-pronged marking of portfolios and many processes to ensure marking is standardised and fair.

Finally.. Sarah’s parting message which I felt was important

….My heartfelt message is that we are all ophthalmologists who have been doing the same things that they {candidates} have in the pandemic in some ways. We understand fully that they are having a difficult time, we are trying our very best to deliver as fair a system as possible, to allow all those people who want to get into ophthalmology, a system that they can at least trust will give a way for us to pick people for a specialty that we know so many people want to do. We know it’s not perfect, we know its new, and nobody likes to be the first. But the team that have tried to organise this, have put our candidates first, not last. So we hope everyone feels they have been given a fair chance at recruitment this year.

Sarah Maling

Our takeaways

  • The process is fair – They are not out to trick you, examiners are standardised and this process is meant to select the best candidates who will become future colleagues.
  • Don’t neglect clinical knowledge – Whilst it is becoming clear this is not directly tested, the strongest candidates will have a solid basis to communicate around. Things like driving standards and common management plans should be learnt, and you should practice articulating this.
  • Make sure your call set up is optimised – This is an exam, treat it as such, all the way from dress, to background appropriateness, to technical quality and issues. Whilst concessions will be made for technical issues, it is additional stress that you should try and avoid.
  • Practice, practice practice – Although Sarah’s advise is to show up and be you, this is an exam and bringing your A-game to the consultation will be key. Given that communications is in the spotlight, there is no reason not to sharpen your comm’s skills prior to the interview.