A recent candidate, successful at interview, shared with me the questions asked. We always strive to pick about 60-70% of the questions or question areas and of course the topics migrate over time.

A question that has migrated away in recent times is the ‘drunk colleague’ question and so I was surprised to hear about it’s re-emergence in this recent interview. It took the following form: what would I do in the context of a colleague behaving erratically who was just about to start clinical duties?

There’s a triumvirate of considerations when answering it, including:

  • assessment of immediate risk to patients?
  • is this a colleague suffering or needing support in some way, perhaps urgently?
  • wider employment & reputation issues for the Trust

All of this has to be considered in light of not wanting to overreact if it is a minor, transient issue, whilst absolutely not wanting to underreact if their is risk to patients or colleagues. A steady-hand approach is required that places risk first but not at the total expense of supporting the colleague. The starting point is the colleague… “are you OK because I noticed you don’t appear to be yourself?” and not the medical director or GMC (yes, we have heard it…). The response dictates the next steps…

Why is it so rare? Well, you obviously have to get it ‘right’ but even if you do produce the right answer, it doesn’t mean that’s how you would behave when faced with the situation. Consequently, today, these ‘semantic’ questions (with ‘book answers’ predominantly) have fallen out of fashion. Or have they…?