In this blog, you'll have the opportunity to review 10 common CaRMS interview questions, sample answers, and expert tips for answering these questions effectively. Use this as a guide to help your CaRMS interview prep. Depending on the program, you may be faced with MMI questions, or traditional/panel interview questions, both of which are represented below. Do not forget to check out a list of the most important residency interview questions you need to know.
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1. Why have you decided to pursue x specialty and our program specifically?
- Highlight any common values and passions
- Discuss what you enjoy about the specialty and relevant experiences
- Highlight any personal connections to the school/program/location
- Discuss what you are you most excited about when you think of attending this program
Emergency medicine is exciting, with a variety of patient presentations and medical procedures done on a daily basis. I enjoy dealing with the unexpected challenges that arise in caring for patients with backgrounds vastly different from my own. It would be a privilege to gain the skills as an emergency physician to provide acute life-saving care, to connect patients with resources and other healthcare professionals, and to provide comfort to patients and families in the settings of acute loss or difficult diagnoses. I feel that the RCPS program is the ideal path to reach that goal.
First, the RCPS program offers additional support and training to continue to perform research and other scholarly activities. Through my experience in quality improvement, I have learned of the value of research and how it can be applied to practical problems. For instance, while volunteering in a pool rehabilitation program for individuals with neurological disabilities, a patient who I had worked with for a year tragically suffered a fall and broke his hip leaving him significantly disabled. This led me to research inpatient falls during medical school and I initiated a quality improvement project and presented at several conferences, quality improvement rounds, and meetings with hospital stakeholders.
After several years of work, I am very proud that this led to the implementation of a province-wide quality improvement initiative funded by Doctors of B.C. and the B.C. Ministry of Health. This initiative is physician-led and is aimed at reducing inpatient falls across British Columbia. This project demonstrated how rewarding research is when it can be translated into tangible initiatives and is why I am particularly interested in quality improvement research.
In addition to increased training in research, the RCPS program offers the opportunity to subspecialize within EM. While in medical school, I helped my single mother raise my much younger siblings and this has inspired my interest in pediatric EM. Through my experiences teaching and playing with my siblings, I have learned to deal with children in a calm and friendly manner. I used these skills to maintain positive therapeutic relationships with children during my pediatric EM rotation at Alberta Children’s Hospital. For instance, I was able to cast the forearm of a frightened child by first demonstrating the procedure on her toy rabbit, and then calmly fitting a cast on her arm. I enjoy the emphasis on patient and family education as well as the focus on making the patient feel safe and cared for.
I would feel privileged to join the resident team in the Fraser Program. I was fortunate that most of my core clerkship training including EM, as well as my fourth year EM elective, was at the Royal Columbia Hospital (RCH). What stands out the most to me about working in the RCH ED is the tight-knit community feel in the setting of a high volume, high acuity ED. I value that the small program leads to a cohesive resident group and staff who are invested in their learners. Furthermore, from my rotations there, I know the ample procedural and hands-on exposure residents get from the beginning of their training. With my interest in pediatric EM, I value the longitudinal exposure to pediatrics at RCH, with opportunities to do dedicated pediatric rotations both at Surrey Memorial Hospital, as well as BC Children’s Hospital. Finally, the Fraser Valley is my home; my family and friends are here, and I love that hiking, fishing, kayaking, and snowboarding are all less than an hour away. I would be incredibly honored to have the privilege of pursuing EM in the Fraser Program, and look forward to serving my community.
2. Tell me about yourself.
- Do not recite your residency CV
- Review our how to answer the residency interview question tell me about yourself blog
- Recall your residency personal statement
- Show, don't tell, who you are & what makes you unique
- Discuss a few items/characteristics that are part of your identity
- Expand by discussing why you love those items, what you learned from them, why they are significant
Watch below for more information and a sample answer:
3. Tell me about a time you failed.
- Take ownership of the failure
- Don't play the victim
- Reflect on the failure with maturity
- Discuss what you learned and how you can tackle this in the future with more success
- Do not discuss immoral or ethically questionable tendencies
Since high school, I was always uncomfortable with my body, so I decided to finally go to the gym during my sophomore year of college. I worked out many times a week and actually felt like I was on my way towards getting my dream body. However, after a solid month of going to the gym, I did not see any improvements in my body and actually found out that I ended up gaining five pounds after weighing myself. At that moment, I felt like a complete failure because I put in so much time and effort towards achieving a goal and I felt like I did not achieve it. I did not believe I would ever be able to attain my ideal body and that any effort in doing so would be a waste of my time. Fortunately, I told my friend Nigel, who goes to the gym frequently, that I was struggling to reach my fitness goals. He was concerned for me, so he asked me about my fitness routine and what my diet was like. I told him that I had only been running on the treadmill and that I did not pay much attention to my nutrition because I thought doing cardio alone would be enough to lose weight. Nigel explained to me that losing weight involves a combination of modifying your exercise and your diet. He told me about a mobile app called MyFitnessPal, which allowed me to monitor my calorie consumption so that I stayed under my daily limit. After following Nigel’s advice, I went to the gym consistently and ate within a calorie deficit each day. Within another month, I finally saw the results I was looking for and ended up losing eight pounds. I learned from this failure that it is always helpful to seek out others’ advice because they may know more about a particular topic, or they may approach a certain problem differently than I would. I apply this same approach of consulting with others wherever I am faced with any challenges that I cannot overcome myself.
4. Give me an example of your response in a stressful, pressure-filled situation.
- Describe the situation honestly
- Discuss how you felt and how you responded
- Discuss what you learned
While volunteering at a homeless clinic, I was tasked with organizing the line for haircuts, a service that is available monthly. I was going through my list of people waiting for haircuts, trying to ensure optimal efficiency, when someone came up to me, clearly annoyed. They demanded to know when their turn was, but their name was not on my list despite their insistence that they had signed up.
I sincerely apologized and added their name to my list with a promise to squeeze them in somewhere. Afterward, I went to my supervisor and inquired why I had been approached with that question. She gave me a second list full of names that she had previously forgotten to give me. I had told many people on the first list that their haircuts were practically guaranteed. However, looking between the lists, I knew many of the people on both lists were not going to be able to get haircuts. With some advice from my supervisor, I began merging the lists, while ensuring as many people as possible could get a haircut; it was not fair that some would be denied the service due to miscommunication. I mentioned the situation to one of the homeless ladies waiting for her turn and she scoffed at my concern before explaining that the other patrons were likely not as upset as they claimed to be.
Through this experience, I was reminded that I was adaptable but also learned that I can handle conflict and solve problems. Moreover, I realized that I was the source of my own stress in this situation and that I just needed to change my response to the stress, rather than eliminate its source. The annoyed person, like many others in their position, just wanted to be heard and see something was being done to solve the problem. It was easy to calm her after realizing this and I was reminded of how important it is for people, especially those in vulnerable positions, to see someone by their side trying to help them in any way they can.
When the hairdresser returned a month later, I took extra steps to ensure confusion did not ensue and we set a new record for haircuts done in 4 hours!
5. Tell me about a time you worked in a group.
- Discuss a relevant situation
- Discuss what you learned
- Discuss why this teamwork was essential
As an executive member of a Women’s Leadership Organization, we planned and executed a fundraiser in my community to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada. During a team meeting to decide what type of fundraisers we should implement, I was able to see a variety of perspectives. One committee member who worked in retail suggested having a coffee break at a local mall, whereas another member who was a university student suggested having a bake sale in a student neighborhood, and I shared my thought on implementing an online bake sale and delivery service. Collaboratively, we were able to implement a variety of different fundraisers that catered to a diverse population of community members, and we fundraised over $2000 for the cause.
By working in a group setting, I learned a group thrives when all members feel included and valued. Listening to a variety of different perspectives can lead to the creation of novel solutions to a problem. Being able to work well in a group setting will serve me as a physician, as I will be presented with multiple different perspectives from my patients and colleagues and must take these into account when creating treatment plans.
6. A patient of yours comes to your office and asks you if it would be okay for her to try homeopathy for the minor aches and pains and headaches she has been experiencing. You are not aware of any scientific literature about the efficacy of homeopathy, but you are aware that it is practically without any side effects. What do you do?
- Identify the pressing issue
- Gather information
- Discuss physician and patient expectations & considerations
- Remain non-judgmental
I recognize that it's my responsibility as a physician to inform the patient about all potential treatments available to help her aches and pains while also respecting her autonomy. The first thing I would need to do is gather more information to help me understand what may be the underlying cause of her pain. I would ensure to speak in private with her and try to collect information in a compassionate non-judgmental way. I'd ask questions to determine when the pain first started, what level of pain she's experiencing, whether she's had any injuries or trauma, as well as questions to help me understand her work environment. Through these questions, I might learn that she was injured playing sports or was involved in a car accident. This information will help me in my recommendations for treatments and diagnostic tests such as X-rays or ultrasounds.
Once I feel I've collected sufficient information to better understand her aches, pains, and headaches, I would use this knowledge to help me decide on the best course of action. This may include referring her to a chiropractor, an optometrist or a rheumatologist. With each option that I discuss, I would be sure to explain thoroughly and ask her questions to ensure she understands the different treatment options which will allow her to make an informed decision about which option(s) she'd like to pursue. After I've explained the options available from my point of view, I'd be sure to explain to her that I'm not aware of any scientific literature that suggests homeopathy is effective in the treatment of minor aches, pains, and headaches but that I do know that homeopathy is practically without side effects. I'd explain that homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine and that she may not experience any benefit aside from a placebo effect, however, even a placebo can be effective. I'd ensure that I'm fostering a supportive environment and once I felt she understood the traditional vs alternative treatment options, I'd tell her that she and I should work together in the decision-making process, but ultimately, she can choose whichever treatment option she feels is the best for her.
7. What has been one of your proudest moments?
- Don't boast
- Discuss why the moment made you proud
- Discuss what you achieved and what you learned
- Discuss why it is significant or beneficial
I ran and was elected for my first student government position in grade 7 as a class representative. I had just moved to a new school to escape bullying and I decided to push myself right into student advocacy to re-establish my voice. I discovered that in my position I could not only advocate on behalf of students but to also invoke positive change.
I went on to continue a strong tradition of involvement in student politics in high school, and then university. As an elected representative of my faculty to the highest level of student government, I had a large platform and a responsibility to use it effectively to benefit the students who had elected me. I placed a strong emphasis on mental health, a significant issue that students in higher education face. The achievement I am most proud of is the institution of a Fall Reading Week at Queen’s University to improve student mental health and academic performance. During my term, we discussed this issue with university administration for months, often late into the night, working to reach an effective compromise between what the administration and the students wanted. The following year was the first year Queen’s University introduced a Fall Term Reading Break. As a student leader representing thousands of students, I demonstrated the ability to speak confidently and professionally about student issues and a desire to improve student life through collaboration with other faculties. I discovered that in my position I could not only advocate on behalf of students but I could also invoke positive change. I hope to use this experience along with the skills I have developed to advocate for my community and work towards collaborative solutions for improving mental health.
8. You are working on a small group project and another student isn't meeting his/her responsibility, what would you do?
- Identify the pressing issue
- Gather information
- Explore multiple situations and considerations
- Remain non-judgmental
Resolving this issue requires making sure that everyone in the group feels valued and understands the importance of their contribution to our ultimate goal. I understand that if a member of my team is not contributing to the group substantially, it would negatively affect the rest of our group members and our grades could suffer. I wouldn't want to jump to conclusions about why this student isn't meeting responsibilities, so I would first gather information pertaining to their situation and try to understand their perspective. To gather information, I would have a private meeting with this individual, so they do not feel targeted by the entire group questioning them. It's possible that this member does not understand the expectations of the group so maybe this private conversation would be a sufficient solution. I could explain the level of contribution expected of them so we can all work together and complete the project successfully. Perhaps this would be enough to ensure that this group member meets their responsibilities.
It is also possible that there are factors outside of their control, or that they are facing a personal struggle that is preventing them from contributing to their fullest. In this case, I would show them compassion and understanding by listening to what they would feel comfortable sharing with me. If they tell me about a situation I could help with, such as time management, I would try to connect with them and discuss potential strategies or techniques to help manage multiple projects and complete tasks on time. If something more serious is affecting their work ability, such as drug abuse or family issues, I would try to help by letting them know what resources are available to them to help them through this difficult time in their life. In addition, I would discuss with my group and with my superior to determine if they can still contribute to the group’s efforts. If on the other hand, there are no extenuating circumstances affecting their contributions and they refuse to contribute to the group, despite my efforts, then a discussion with our professor or superior would be warranted to either remove them from the group or discuss the possibility of individual evaluation for our contributions. This way, each person receives a grade that is relevant to their level of effort and contribution.
9. Describe a personal or professional conflict you have experienced.
- Don't accuse and don't play the victim
- Use neutral language and a neutral tone
- Explain the situation honestly
- Describe the resolution and what you learned from the experience
During my year as the president of the women’s lacrosse team, my vice president and I didn’t really see eye to eye on many issues. One of those instances was during the very beginning of our term. We had many ideas, specifically in regards to how to overcome the challenge of increasing player attendance at practice. After a meeting with the players, my vice-president and I came into a minor disagreement over where the problem of low attendance stemmed and the most effective way of solving it. She did not agree with my approach and I was not certain of the reason behind hers either. We were faced with a delicate situation: to create a perfect balance of commitment. Hearing as each provided rationale and evidence for their approach, we gained perspective into each other’s thought process. Fortunately, this open dialogue fueled a collaboration, leading us to improve both approaches and merge them together.
To start, we decided to keep better track of attendance; this way we could set more concrete guidelines for playing time and team bonding activities. With school schedules taken into account, girls were allowed to miss up to one-third of practices before they suffered any consequences. Playing time became based on percentage of practices attended. Lastly, we set a monthly budget with which we decided to do both weekly and monthly activities. We felt that the combination of positive and negative reinforcement would create a good equilibrium for cultivating practice involvement.
The results surpassed our expectations. Now that a fair system was in place to keep girls accountable, there was a forty percent increase in attendance at practice. Players felt they were receiving the right amount of reward for their hard work. Furthermore, team bonding activities created friendships and a sense of unity, making girls excited to hang out with teammates in and out of practice. Above all, we communicated better on the field and had more fun playing.
My role as the president of the women’s lacrosse team taught me a lot. It was, however, this challenge at the very beginning of the year that shaped me as a leader the most. The first board meeting and the results of our policy changes showed me the importance of collaboration to being an effective leader. We were successful in solving our problem because we communicated with the team and each other. Thus, the most important lesson I took from this situation was to stop and listen, both to those I serve and those I work beside. I learned it is only when we provide others consideration that we can be respected leaders. With this in mind, I now always approach any challenge, personal or professional, with full appreciation for other people’s voices.
10. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- Describe your vision of future practice and your intended contribution
- Provide evidence to support your vision
- Use specifics such as work setting, patient population, location & specialties
- Avoid coming across as unflexible
In my junior year, I was one of two non-nursing majors accepted to participate in a study abroad program, primarily intended for nursing majors to gain clinical hours, in the British Virgin Islands. I was able to rotate through several different units, one of which was the Operating Room. Observing in the OR was one of the most significant experiences in medicine I have had because it allowed me to experience the surgical world firsthand. I had the opportunity to be side by side with surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other members of the team, and observe procedures that I would never have been able to in the U.S., like the Cesarian section, as an undergraduate Exercise Science major.
Being in the OR reinforced my dream of being a part of a team like the one I watched performing surgery after surgery. The long hours and tedious work was truly remarkable, but the C-section really made an impression because the beauty and joy that came with the birth of a human being completely offset an otherwise extremely gory scene. Observing a C-section was such an emotional experience for me and it made me appreciate how women trust other people with the fragile lives of their fetuses and allow physicians to lead them through the life-changing journey of childbirth.
Earning such a privilege is not to be taken lightly, and I hope I am able to earn my patients’ trust in my abilities as a future physician. Five years from now, I see myself working in a career of Obstetrics combined with global health initiatives. I intend on practicing in an urban area in the U.S. where I can be exposed to the most diverse experiences. I also want to pursue global opportunities within my medical education and beyond, in order to help people in medically underserved areas.
To your success,
Your friends at BeMo
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