Experience, experience, EXPERIENCE!
It is important to
realize that work experience, especially when it comes to medical-related
work experience is first and foremost for you to gain insight into the field of medicine you can envisage yourself practising for the rest of your life. I am guilty of stressing about getting the perfect hospital experience. I became worried when
I was “rejected” from GP surgeries or community-based healthcare work.
However, more importantly than being something to write on your CV, this is an
opportunity for you to experience various areas of medicine. It is important in helping you to identify a field that is most suited for you.
Work experience is an essential step for getting into
medical school. Not only will you be able to decide for yourself which
aspects of medicine you enjoy, but it also gives you a perfect chance to draw from when
answering the inevitable question “Why a doctor and not a nurse/ allied
There are lots of opportunities available to gain
invaluable experience that doesn’t involve a week at your hospital (because
granted that can be very difficult to get, more so now than ever!) The main aim is to give you an insight into what healthcare professionals do
and to challenge any beliefs you may hold subconsciously about what
different jobs entail.
It is really important
to have a look at different universities’ specifications surrounding work
experience. They often have helpful links to different organisations and
specify exactly what they want you to be able to show from your experience.
Types of Experience:
John’s Ambulance, for example, is a great organisation to get involved with. Their website has a postcode search filter where you can search for volunteering opportunities near you.
Royal Voluntary Service also has plenty of voluntary opportunities, many of which will be based in hospitals, such as working in the café or shop. It also has other opportunities such as befriending services. All these opportunities are key to giving insight into the different aspects of medicine.
GP / Hospital:
can be difficult to get at times, but it is worth contacting your local GP and
asking if they run any placements.
your careers' coordinator about work experience placements at your local hospital could also be very useful.
making use of any family members or friends who work as healthcare professionals is great. They can often help to arrange work experience or at least point you in the right direction of someone who could help.
Hospices or Care
or working at a care home will give you great insight into the care of the elderly. As the aged population of the UK increases, care of the elderly is becoming an increasingly large aspect of medicine. So, work experience in care homes or hospices will prepare you to learn to deal with the elderly, sensitively, and in a dignified manner.
Top tips while on work
I think it’s so easy
to think, “yeah, of course, I’ll remember what I did every day” and put off
recording what you did until months after you’ve finished the placement, but I
cannot stress how useful this will be if you do it at the time.
You can reflect
on all the patient contact you’ve had, what you learnt and what you would do
differently next time.
Equally, if you see a doctor approaching a patient in a
really lovely way, think about (and write down) what it was that you liked
about that interaction, and possibly more importantly, if you think “I didn’t
actually like the way that consultation/ conversation was conducted” you can
write down what made you feel uncomfortable and what you would have done
differently. But remember to never write patient details down and keep all
your notes completely confidential.
Being enthusiastic and
self-motivated are two key qualities of a doctor and if you’re able to show
this from early on, then even better! I have learnt that doctors absolutely love talking about their speciality!
If you can engage with them, ask
about why they made certain decisions or asking them to clarify things you
don’t understand. They will see that you’re committed and will be more likely
to help you or teach you. I think this is important to remember, right the way
through from work experience to medical school!
Many of the patients
will assume that you are medical students and would expect you to act as such,
and likewise, you will be in a working environment so staff will also see you as
future colleagues. Make a good impression! Dress appropriately, be polite and
ask if you are unsure. It is a privilege to be allowed to be with patients when
they are at their most vulnerable and they will almost definitely remember the
people who were around them at this time.
Be really open-minded
and be willing to let yourself absorb the experience. It is a great opportunity
to immerse yourself in the working environment, even if you think
"this isn't really for me." As long as you have made the most
of the experience, noted what you have learnt and reflected on this, you
will have a great starting point for an interview.
As it shows that you are proactive, have
shown initiative and are committed to your future career! Best of