Applying to medical school can often be a daunting experience that seems like never-ending hurdles! However, piecing apart a good application can be helpful in finding out what will make you stand out from the crowd. My name is Cameron and I’m a final year medical student at the University of Manchester, in this blog I will focus on a key part of any medical school application: work experience.
Classically work experience is perceived to be countless hours following doctors around a hospital. Although this can be useful, many other activities are equally acceptable to talk about in a personal statement or at interview. The key concept universities are interested in is demonstrating that you have experience in a caring environment. This can range from volunteering in an elderly care home, shadowing a GP or other healthcare professional in primary or secondary care, or caring for a friend or relative with additional needs. The idea behind this is to gain an insight into what it is like to care for someone else and crucially what you learned from it.
When it comes to work experience its quality over quantity. Describing your time in a few settings is much more beneficial for your application than listing all the departments you visited in a hospital. The most important part to write about, and a crucial skill to develop for a career in medicine, is the ability to reflect. How did the caring experience make you feel? What did you learn from it? How has this benefited you? And crucially, what have you observed that will change how you act next time? Reflection is a crucial skill that is continuously needed in a medical career. Showing that you can talk about not only what work experience you did but how it gave you an insight into medicine, showed you what skills are required as a doctor, will make your application stand out from the rest.
Finding Work Experience
It can be hard to find work experience opportunities, but here are some tips that can help:
- Ask the relevant member of staff at your school about possible opportunities in a caring environment or any work experience schemes ran with the local NHS trust.
- Look online to find opportunities for shadowing and volunteering.
- Phone up your local care home or charity to see if they are willing to allow you to come and help out, whether this is something as simple as chatting to elderly residents and supporting their daily needs.
- Charities are always welcoming additional support so this experience should be easy to find.
Currently during lockdown, it is difficult to find these opportunities however you can still use your time effectively. Take up a new skill or hobby that you can demonstrate requires the vital skills of a doctor. There are numerous volunteering opportunities observing social distancing that you can take part in, for example participating in schemes that telephone isolated individuals who are particularly vulnerable in lockdown. Also, keep an eye on university websites and social media channels to see what is suggested for those seeking to study medicine.
It’s good to bear in mind that any form of work or volunteering can be discussed at the interview or in your personal statement to demonstrate the skills and experience you have. Whether this is working is a supermarket or helping out with your local sports team. Think out how skills such as leadership, teamwork, reflection, timekeeping, and organisation can be discussed and applied to why you would make a great medical student.