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hiyayosup

Bringing up past trauma during interview?

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Hello, 

I had a traumatic experience while I was a teenager that has influenced my desire to become a physician. I wanted to talk about it during my interview but am not sure if I should discuss it in general vs. specific terms? I'd appreciate your thoughts

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I think it can be done if you explain things very carefully. Essentially, the biggest point would be to avoid making interviewers uncomfortable. If you can avoid doing that, I think it’s reasonable to bring up the experience. This is my really general advice. If you gave more information about the nature of the experience I may have a different point of view. 

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It probably depends on the trauma. For better or for worse (actually it’s definitely for worse) some things are far more stigmatized than others. If it was for example a sexual assault or abuse or something like that, people get very edgy about that kind of stuff for all kinds of awful stigmatizing reasons. If it was for example a death of a relative or something, most people will be able to tolerate hearing that.  

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Thank you both for your thoughts. Unfortunately, it was a more...stigmatized form of trauma. Is it sufficient to speak about it in general terms? My concern over not bringing it up at all is it feeds quite heavily into my answer for "Why medicine?" so not sure what to do....

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1 hour ago, hiyayosup said:

Thank you both for your thoughts. Unfortunately, it was a more...stigmatized form of trauma. Is it sufficient to speak about it in general terms? My concern over not bringing it up at all is it feeds quite heavily into my answer for "Why medicine?" so not sure what to do....

I would probably not bring it up then. I think essentially though it might work, the risk is too high since you can't predict how your interviewers will react. 

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40 minutes ago, freewheeler said:

Don't expect interviewers to be understanding or nuanced in their view of you. They will likely think you're damaged goods and move your application to the bottom of the pile. Empathy is only lip service in medicine.

 

4 minutes ago, m_jacob_45 said:

I would probably not bring it up then. I think essentially though it might work, the risk is too high since you can't predict how your interviewers will react. 

That's unfortunate...do you think its okay to say "After an upsetting experience, I sought medical care blah blah blah" as part of my response to why medicine? 

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1 hour ago, hiyayosup said:

 

That's unfortunate...do you think its okay to say "After an upsetting experience, I sought medical care blah blah blah" as part of my response to why medicine? 

You could but I feel like it would be such a vague answer that might leave the interviewer wanting more/having questions. I would try and rethink the “why medicine question.”

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It would be better to focus on what you have done/accomplished, rather than what happened to you if possible. Have you been involved in volunteer or advocacy work related to helping others through a similar experience? Can you speak about your unique empathy and motivation to help such patients?

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1 hour ago, freewheeler said:

Don't expect interviewers to be understanding or nuanced in their view of you. They will likely think you're damaged goods and move your application to the bottom of the pile. Empathy is only lip service in medicine.

a job/carms interview is not a therapy session. Its really not appropriate to spill your dark secrets/past trauma in those situations, nothing to do with how you think "empathy is only lip service".

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8 minutes ago, beeboop said:

a job/carms interview is not a therapy session. Its really not appropriate to spill your dark secrets/past trauma in those situations, nothing to do with how you think "empathy is only lip service".

Wow. That's a pretty casually cruel thing to say about someone's trauma. People have raised points about self-preservation and impression management which are clearly meant to help OP. I don't think you added anything valuable by acting as if there is no place to introduce very personal parts of your life to interviews. It's not unprofessional to be authentic to who you are, and people are allowed to own their experiences.  Just because an interviewer might be made uncomfortable does not mean that sharing things is "unprofessional", and assuming that OP wants to treat their interview as a "therapy session" is really ridiculous. OP clearly states a desire to authentically answer the question about why they chose medicine. 

 

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So the issue isn't that trauma is stigmatized, it's that an interview is supposed to be a smooth positive experience, that makes the interviewer feel good about the interviewee. Now if you were to bring up a past trauma, they aren't going to stigmatize you for whatever it was, it's that you might throw the interviewer off a little bit, and they have to take a second and make sure they are respectful. They won't deduct marks for being traumatized, but now subconsciously they have been set off, and subconscious bias may come into play.

Having a history of personally needing medical treatment or having a close family member/friend needing care setting you down the path to medical school is a very common story. You need to consider how to make yours unique. If you have tangential experience that you can talk about, all the better. Say things like, "When I was younger I had personal experience of the health care system from a patient perspective, and came to respect the job that physicians do to victims of X trauma. Since then I have been active with X outreach group for victims of X trauma, and would like to further my goals to help other victims through practising as a physician." While saying the same thing, implying it instead of explicitly saying, still gets your point across without being jarring.

I 100% don't mean to undermine your experience, and it's up to you, as you are the only one who knows your circumstances, how you want to convey yourself and your experiences, as its your career. If you feel like being more direct is more your style and will play well than by all means.

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4 minutes ago, DoctorArts said:

Wow. That's a pretty casually cruel thing to say about someone's trauma. People have raised points about self-preservation and impression management which are clearly meant to help OP. I don't think you added anything valuable by acting as if there is no place to introduce very personal parts of your life to interviews. It's not unprofessional to be authentic to who you are, and people are allowed to own their experiences.  Just because an interviewer might be made uncomfortable does not mean that sharing things is "unprofessional", and assuming that OP wants to treat their interview as a "therapy session" is really ridiculous. OP clearly states a desire to authentically answer the question about why they chose medicine. 

 

Thank you for these words of support :) This particular incident occurred towards the end of high school/beginning of university and really affected me for several years after, so much so that I genuinely thought medicine would never happen for me. My experiences with the health care system following this event were what really triggered my passion for the field of medicine. My desire to include this information in my answer was because its a (big) part of who I am today and contributes to my most authentic reasoning for wanting to go into this career.

However, I understand that I am nothing more than a naive premed...that regardless of how much we put healthcare providers on a pedestal, they carry with them their own assumptions and biases and may not take kindly to someone with my background wanting to enter this field. I appreciate the insights and honesty of everyone in this thread and hope I can craft a similarly authentic response to the question "Why medicine" that is perhaps less contentious.  

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1 minute ago, hiyayosup said:

However, I understand that I am nothing more than a naive premed...that regardless of how much we put healthcare providers on a pedestal, they carry with them their own assumptions and biases and may not take kindly to someone with my background wanting to enter this field. I appreciate the insights and honesty of everyone in this thread and hope I can craft a similarly authentic response to the question "Why medicine" that is perhaps less contentious.  

Please don't let that be the impression you take away from this thread. I think that being genuine is extremely important in these situations, and if its your experience, your passion coming through speaking about it will be better than just being generic without the passion. What we mean to say is that if its important to you, 100% talk about it, but understand that in anything to do with trauma we need to be professional. Again I think if its important you should talk about it, but talk about it in a way that conveys that you realize there is a chance the person your talking to suffers from PTSD from their own trauma, and that shouldn't affect an interview scenario, you need to demonstrate that you can talk in a similar way with patients who have lived traumatic experiences.

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3 minutes ago, bearded frog said:

Please don't let that be the impression you take away from this thread. I think that being genuine is extremely important in these situations, and if its your experience, your passion coming through speaking about it will be better than just being generic without the passion. What we mean to say is that if its important to you, 100% talk about it, but understand that in anything to do with trauma we need to be professional. Again I think if its important you should talk about it, but talk about it in a way that conveys that you realize there is a chance the person your talking to suffers from PTSD from their own trauma, and that shouldn't affect an interview scenario, you need to demonstrate that you can talk in a similar way with patients who have lived traumatic experiences.

Thank you -- sorry, I didn't mean for it to come across as if I think all healthcare providers are heartless or incapable of understanding or anything of the sort. Medicine is tricky because you have to relate to patients of all backgrounds while still staying detached enough to be professional. You've brought up some great points and I completely understand that the answers on this thread are mostly intended to be honest and helpful. 

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I guess what I am trying to say is that, without knowing your background, the majority of admissions committees want a diverse group of admitted students, and there's no explicit bias against certain backgrounds. Being a victim of trauma isn't contentious, it's an unfortunately too common occurrence, and overcoming that, and using it as a drive to be a physician, is as good a reason as any to become a doctor.

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3 hours ago, hiyayosup said:

Hello, 

I had a traumatic experience while I was a teenager that has influenced my desire to become a physician. I wanted to talk about it during my interview but am not sure if I should discuss it in general vs. specific terms? I'd appreciate your thoughts

I was in a very similar situation this application cycle! I debated whether or not I wanted to talk about a traumatic experience, given it was one of the reasons I'm interested in pursuing a career in medicine. I decided not to bring it up because, I thought to myself, interviewers are humans. They will have biases. Yes, it is a possibility that they are trained to be somewhat less biased when conducting an interview. However, I always had a fear that, subconsciously, the stigma surrounding my traumatic experience would take away from the message I was trying to get across. 

Have you advocated/worked in a field that helps those who have experienced the same trauma? If so, you could discuss that! If not, you could always focus on other reasons that led you to medicine. 

Good luck! PM if you need to talk :)

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I think like a lot of people have already mentioned, your interview should be more about what you did, what you've experienced, how you grew, what you accomplished, and more importantly, what you bring to the table and how you hope to move forward in a career in medicine. A traumatic/bad experience is a great way to lead into all of those points, but should not be the bulk of the content of your answer. Finding the balance between not including too many details and not sounding too generic is very difficult, but something all interviewees have to practice on as they reflect on their experiences and accomplishments going into the interview :) . Good luck! 

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Don’t focus on the trauma, rather upon your experience as a pstIent that gsve you insight into the failings and competencies of physicians and you felt that, one day, you would like to contribute to patients’ well being as a physician. You need not necessarily specify the particular trauma you experienced, and this is a career interview and not a therapy session, move on to complete your story. This is but one pebble along the path.

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