​​​​ Cote outside Michener building
Christian Cote, UHN Public Affairs and Communications, shares his experience as a volunteer rater for The Michener Institute of Education’s Multiple Mini Interviews – a process where prospective students are tested on non-academic “soft skills”. (Photo: Courtesy of Christian Cote)


 

It's one of the first signs of spring at The Michener Institute of Education at UHN. The Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) process begins this week as prospective Michener students are quizzed on such non-academic qualities as responsibility, ethics, teamwork, communication and self-reflection. It's an endeavour that relies on an army of volunteers each year, and Christian Cote of UHN Public Affairs & Communications reflects on his experience asking the questions.

I am an MMI "rater." One of about 400 people who has volunteered to help the Michener Institute assess applicants to their school.

MMI stands for "Multiple Mini Interview." That's where applicants go through a series (Multiple) of short (Mini) "tests" such as reacting to an ethical scenario in a mock interview, and other simulations designed to measure non-academic "soft skills".

The rater training is thorough. The planning and execution of the MMI sessions are meticulous. And the MMI simulations are a fascinating study in behaviour under pressure.

WHAT IS MMI?

  • The Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) is the process that Michener uses to assess the non-academic qualities of prospective students, such as responsibility, ethics, teamwork, communication and self-reflection.
  • Originally developed by McMaster University's medical school in the early 2000s, MMIs use a unique series of short-form interview stations to assess candidates' "soft" skills, including ethical and moral judgement, interpersonal skills and professionalism.
  • Since its introduction, the MMI format has been adopted by Michener and medical schools around the world to help ensure they're accepting students who are a good fit for medical professions.
  • An MMI circuit is typically divided into eight mini-interview stations that each takes no more than seven to 10 minutes to complete. Applicants rotate from station to station, where they are required to discuss a non-clinical question or participate in a simulated scenario
  • An examiner, or rater, facilitates the question or scenario and fills out a rubric-based evaluation before the applicant moves onto the next station. The examiners, however, are not always medical or health professionals, nor are they MMI or admissions experts.
  • At Michener, the MMI process relies on upwards of 400 volunteers to facilitate the questions and scenarios, as well as to coordinate applicants and manage the interview circuits. Volunteers range from current students to Michener faculty, staff, alumni and clinical partners and educators.​​

In one of the scenarios the applicant is told they are an actor about to go on stage in a theatre production. When they enter the room they will find a distraught "colleague" (a specially-trained actor known as a "standardized patient") who has a case of stage fright and is refusing to go on with the show. No direction is given to the applicant on what the outcome should be. And "action."

As raters our job is to observe and score how the applicant handles the situation. As well, we watch for non-verbal and other cues such as bias, inappropriate language, discrimination, body language, tone of voice, demeanour, clarity, etc.

Some applicants were understandably flummoxed, and suffered their own stage fright under the weight of what is at stake here – a coveted spot in one of Michener's programs. I watched a few other candidates physically corner their anxious colleague as they zealously took charge, probing for answers. Most took the compassionate approach, asking open-ended questions, listening to their colleague's anxious plight, and exploring coping strategies.

Towards the end of a few scenarios, I saw applicants gently encourage their agitated colleague to sit, and lead them in a breathing exercise. Those are actions indicative of candidates who possess intuition, compassion, kindness, curiosity, leadership, communication skills, and, the ability to accurately assess a situation and perform under pressure.

Scoring can be a challenge, knowing it will affect an applicant's candidacy. That's why on every score sheet the raters are reminded what this is all about. You are rating an individual's suitability to work in healthcare, their potential to work with a team in a fast-paced, high stakes setting. Above all, you are rating whether a candidate is well-suited to work with patients.

The Michener Institute mission is to find and train the best of the best. The rigour of its MMI rating process is one step towards ensuring it gets those candidates. 

It's a high bar. It's what patients deserve.  ​

And to be a part of that process is a privilege.

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