From September, 2003, a new station has been added to the part 3 MRCOphth to test the ability of the doctors to communicate with patients. The candidates are asked to engage in role-playing with the patients some of whom may be actors or actresses. The topics are usually related to explaining an ophthalmic problem in a layman term, breaking bad news or discussing ethical problem. This part of the examination is still in its infancy and no doubt with time some of the scenarios may become common and will appear consistently. It is important to remember that this station is a test of your communication skill and no your knowledge of the subject (For example, if you were asked to break the news to a patient  with poor vision due to age-related macular degeneration, you should concentrate on driving, low visual aids and treatment options; instead of concentrating solely on the latest development of photodynamic therapy and trials such as VIP or TAP). You need to play this part of the examination with sensitivity and empathy. 

It can be difficult for some candidates to play the role in such a contrived environment and consequently the candidates may appear rigid and cold. The best way to approach the station is to imagine that you are in a clinical setting and how you would normally speak to the patients. It is suggested that you shake the hands of the patients warmly at the beginning, adopt the appropriate facial expression when conveying bad news (avoid unnecessary smiling so that you can appear serious but caring), maintain eye contact and if necessary touch the patient on the shoulder to show your empathy or offer the patient a box of tissue if she appears in tear (some actresses may be very good in the examination and you have to play the game to keep up).

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