Hospital work experience placements are full of useful information, experiences and inspiration for your personal statements. However, many students leave them not having made the most of these invaluable experiences. Here are a few hints and tips to get the most of your hospital work experience placements, ensuring that you have plenty to discuss in your personal statement and interviews.
Firstly, when you arrive talk to your supervisor and ask them what they think the most useful and interesting things are to see are – a work experience bucket list if you will. Every speciality is different, as are the most useful learning experiences associated with each one. Your consultant supervisor will be the person best placed to advise you on what is going on during your time there, and more importantly, what is worth seeing. If you make it clear you want to see as much as possible, they will be more than happy to help you get the most of your experience.
Secondly, start your day in the hospital early. As horrific as an 8am handover or ward round sounds, these opportunities are some of the best to see a wide range of things. The doctors at the handovers and ward rounds will discuss or visit every patient in their care. This means you get the chance to hear about around twenty different patients, their stories, and meet them with the doctors. That’s a lot of potential points for discussion in your personal statement and interviews. Think about the disease you hear about – what is the science behind it? Think about the stories you hear – are there any interesting legal or ethical aspects worth thinking about? Think about the patients’ experiences – what impact has it had on their lives? How has the medical profession been able to help? But, as many patients you see will be there for more than one day, going to one ward round or handover is probably enough as the patients won’t change much each day!
Thirdly, don’t be afraid to ask questions. There will be a lot you don’t know – drugs, disease, phrases, procedures etc. But, if you won’t gain anything unless you engage with them and try your best to work out what’s going on. Doctors are used to answering questions, both from medical students and patients, and are very skilled at explaining medical science to people of all understanding levels. They won’t be annoyed if you ask (as long as you are polite), and will be more willing to show you interesting things if you show that you are keen.
Finally, try to talk to some patients staying in the wards. Though you won’t be able to take a detailed medical history, you can still hear their story and learn a lot about what they’ve been through. Patients love talking to students as they are often very bored in hospital! Just explain who you are and that you would like to hear about what has brought then to hospital. Then try to find out what happened to them for them to be in hospital and what has happened since they have been there. A good thing to do after speaking to a patient is to discuss it with one of the doctors, they’ll be able to fill in the gap of things you missed, and explain in more scientific terms what’s been going on.
So, there you go. A few tips and tricks to gaining the most from hospital work experience. Best of luck everyone.