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Why Premeds Should Hone Public Speaking Skills

The idea of speaking in public can invoke fear in a lot of people. Through practice, however, this anxiety can be transformed into confidence and a useful skill can be cultivated.

While public speaking can come in handy in a variety of fields, it is particularly useful for those in the medical profession. The premedical years are a great time for those planning to pursue medical school to take advantage of the breadth of the educational curriculum to improve this ability. Becoming a good public speaker will prove useful in a variety of points in the journey from the premedical years to medical school, residency, and beyond. A few of these are highlighted below.

At the medical school interview. Public speaking involves effectively articulating ideas into words, managing the anxiety of being in front of an audience and possessing confidence. All of these abilities can also help during the medical school interview. Medical school admissions committees like to see individuals who can effectively put their thoughts into words in a coherent and organized fashion. By practicing your public speaking skills as a premedical student, you can improve this ability. Furthermore, you will develop greater confidence and become more capable at dealing with the anxiety associated with the medical school interview.

[Read: Common Medical School Interview Questions: 4 Tips to Prepare Answers.]

Public speaking can prove especially at the multiple mini interview, or MMI, and panel interviews. The MMI involves describing a scenario to an individual who is evaluating you and is in this regard similar to giving a speech. Panel interviews are involve multiple persons observing you. If you have experience in public speaking, handling a panel of interviewers becomes easier.

On clinical rotations as a medical student and resident. During medical school and residency, you will frequently be required to give presentations in group settings. In your third- and fourth-year medical school rotations, you will be asked to give presentations on different medical conditions you encounter on rounds.

For example, if you are on the internal medicine wards and your team sees a patient with diabetic ketoacidosis, the attending physician may ask you to come to rounds the next day prepared to talk about the diagnosis and management of this condition. These are usually short presentations of 10 — 15 minutes, given in front of other medical students, interns, residents and attendings during rounds. Medical students and residents are also expected to give longer presentations on disease diagnosis and management in classroom settings.

In addition, as a medical student, you will be expected to present patient cases to your medical team. For example, if on an overnight call, you admit a patient with congestive heart failure to the internal medicine service, the next morning on rounds, it will be your job to systematically present the patient’s medical history, physical examination findings, test results and management plan to the medical team.

[Read: A Day in the Clinical Life of a Third-Year Medical Student.]

In medical school, a great deal of emphasis is placed on students’ ability to effectively present patient cases or medical topics. Gaining effective public speaking skills can go a long way in helping you shine in front of your peers and ensuring success on clinical rotations.

In leadership roles as a practicing physician. Physicians often play leadership roles, serving as authorities in clinical medicine, research, or public health initiatives. Some physicians provide health education lectures in the community for patients while others become involved in advocacy, making presentations to law-makers to inform policy decisions that affect health. If you are aspiring to be involved in any of these scenarios or others like them, you will need to develop strong public speaking skills.

[Read: 4 Ways Premed Students Can Develop Strong Leadership Experience.]

As a clinician, you will attend seminars and conferences, where you will be expected to share your approach to patient care with your peers. If you become involved in research, you will attend conferences where you will present your research findings in front of an audience. Honing your public speaking skills, can help you take on a leadership role in an area of medicine that interests you.

Much like learning a language or a musical instrument, becoming a good public speaker requires time and practice. The earlier you start, the more opportunities you will have to hone these skills. The premedical years offer a great opportunity to begin working on this.

Through diverse coursework including non-science courses like speech or communication, you can begin working on these skills. Additionally, through extracurricular activities and research, you can put yourself in situations where you have to speak in public. Many people get anxious thinking about being in such situations. But by stepping out of your comfort zone and taking advantage of opportunities to build this skill, you will become better prepared for medical school, residency, and a career as a physician.

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