GP work experience provides an invaluable insight into primary care – how should it be arranged?
Spending time at a GP for your medical work experience is a good way to understand the practice of medicine in the community. This may be done alongside hospital medical work experience, and the broader the range of medical experiences you have to reflect on – the better.
How to Contact a GP for Work Experience
Getting medical work experience is something you need to take initiative of. Contact the nearest four to five GP practices, in the hope that one will get back to you, by either sending an email or letter, as well as your CV to the practice. This can be addressed directly to the GP, to administration staff or to the practice manager.
In this letter, outline why you would like to contact each practice and what you are hoping to get out of the placement, in terms of your learning objectives. It may be useful to briefly outline examples of other experiences you have had, for example volunteering or academic achievements, to demonstrate your enthusiasm to learn about what a career in medicine is like.
When to start contacting for work experience
Getting in contact with GP practices for work experience should be done as early as possible. This is to maximise your chances of GPs having unfilled capacity to take a shadowing student, and to allow necessary arrangements to be made. Generally, if arranging work experience for the summer it might be good to start contacting practices in November-January.
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Hearing back from practices
Don’t give up if several GP practices say that they cannot take a medical work experience student. This may often be the case given the busy work schedule of the practices. Send further emails to other practices if this is the case and try calling the GP practices too.
Other means of getting work experience
Your school may have links to particular practices for work experience. Get in touch with your school work experience coordinator. You can also try contacting family members or friends who work in the medical field. They might be able to put you in touch with a GP practice.
Remember that getting work experience in primary care is not just limited to general practice, and you will still be able to learn useful lessons from other professionals. Try applying to pharmacists and physiotherapists, where observing patient interactions in these different contexts will still be very helpful. In addition, volunteering in nursing or care homes may provide an even more engaging and involved way to be part of the care of patients and residents, who may greatly appreciate your company.
For further information and alternative work experience guidelines, see: https://www.medschools.ac.uk/media/1179/work-experience-guidelines-for-applicants-to-medicine.pdf.
Your Work Experience Summary
Arranging GP work experience requires foresight and determination. You’ll be required to get in touch with as many practices as possible. The experience of observing patient consultations in primary care will give you a direct insight into the work of GPs. But, don’t be put off if it isn’t possible to arrange. There are many other equally useful alternative primary care experiences to be involved in as well.
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