Public health medicine - giving an effective TV interview

Dr B is a consultant in public health medicine. Here she reflects on how to give an effective TV interview.

What's the issue you reflected on?

Tell us about an incident/situation/feeling that gave you cause for reflection

I was asked to take part in a TV interview to support the public health campaign for bowel cancer screening. A patient who had done the test and discovered invasive cancer was part of the feature.

What made you stop and think?

Although I had had media training previously, this was the first time I was to undertake a taped TV interview. It was going out to a range of audiences all at once - I had to reflect on why it was important, and why others would want to listen and take heed.

There are many ways to reflect - how did you do it?

Preparation for the interview is part of the reflective process - it helped me be very clear about what I was to say, and the purpose behind it.

I anticipated likely questions and made sure I had the most up to date information on bowel cancer. I also went through the process from the patient point of view by using tips and resources compiled by my team.

I spoke to someone who had done the test, and to a patient whose screening test had picked up an invasive tumour.

Following the interview, I had a feedback session with a colleague. This showed me that I could have widened the scope of the message to tackling inequalities.

What did you do?

Tell us what you took away or learned from this experience?

I sourced lots of information that I did not use. I found out that they were actually looking for 20 second sound bites, with no straying off topic.

The interview stated that the process was straightforward, but I know this isn’t the case for people with mobility problems or a disability. And people find it embarrassing or unpleasant. There are also practical barriers like being unsure how to take the sample and instructions being hard to read. On reflection, I could have pointed out all these issues and how they can be overcome.

It was a good opportunity to talk about the subject openly on air.

How did it change your thinking or practice?

The media picked up our campaign because we had a great patient story to go with it. They interviewed the patient first, then me (the public health expert). So, for campaigns to raise awareness, press releases and quotes from experts are not enough - a personal story has the impact.

Also, I developed a working relationship with the local health journalist through this programme of awareness. And the patient and public get to see and hear the messages in high visibility.

What have been the effects of your changes?

Has it improved your practice and outcomes?

I am cautious about media assignments now - I make sure I only accept ones I am competent and knowledgeable about.

If it is a difficult news story with experts pitched against each other, I would need to develop skill in handling challenging questions and making the points I needed to make.

Has it affected others?

I hope my reflections can remind others of the purpose of our media stories; about how we would like to make a difference and reach people to raise awareness of important issues.

Top tips

What top tips would you give to doctors in your specialty about how to get the most from reflection or thinking constructively about a particular problem?

  • CPD is not something we do for the Faculty or to tick a box for the Communitybaptistpa. It is the learning we document for ourselves.
  • CPD is what we get out of the job in learning and experience; it is different from the effort we put into our jobs as outlined in our work objectives.
  • The four key questions that we reflect on for our CPD are a structured way of experiential learning:
    • Why did I choose this activity?
    • What did I learn?
    • How am I going to apply this learning in my work?
    • What am I going to do in future to further develop this learning and/or meet any gaps in my knowledge, skills or understanding?
  • Go back to your reflective notes from a few years ago and you can track the journey you have been on.
  • A personal development plan is important to start you off on your cycle of CPD – plan, reflect, review, plan again.
  • Reflecting with a peer or buddy enables you to reflect more deeply as they can question to help you find the answers for yourself.
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