What’s The Point?
Applying to Medical School can be a daunting task: high grade requirements, pre-admissions tests, personal statements and notoriously difficult interviews. Add to this the requirement for work experience and you’re probably left in a mild panic. But don’t worry- done the right way, work experience can be an invaluable addition to your application and help you stand out for miles. So take a deep breath, relax and read our guide to work experience when applying to Medical School.
What is it?
Medical Work Experience is usually a short period (a few days) of shadowing undertaken at a hospital. You will usually be assigned to a Consultant with whom you will attend ward rounds, clinics and any other work they undertake.
This is usually co-ordinated through hospital administration departments. If you want to organise work experience, ask your school if they have any contacts at the local hospital before approaching the hospital yourself.
Why should we do it?
Medical Schools want to know that you have a considered, balanced view on working as a doctor. They don’t want applicants who’ve watched Gray’s Anatomy or Scrubs and think that’s what being a doctor is like! Medical Schools don’t really mind the type of work experience you’ve done. They want you to be able to talk maturely about the experiences you’ve had.
What if I’ve only had the opportunity to do one day?
Many, many students get worried because they feel they don’t have at least two or three different experiences, or haven’t been to specialised hospitals. Not everybody has access to the same opportunities and Medical Schools appreciate that. It’s not how much work experience you have, it’s what you do with it.
So what should I do?
Once you’ve had your work experience module make sure you take time to reflect on it. Write some of these reflections in your personal statement to show you paid attention to your time on the wards. Re-read your reflections before going to the interview- you will definitely be asked about your experiences on the wards. Below are a few suggestions for topics to reflect on:
What is a normal working day like for a doctor? How does it differ at different levels of seniority?
What stresses are doctors under and what strategies did you see for coping with them?
What other professionals form part of a medical team and what are your reflections on how they deliver patient care?
What policies or protocols in the NHS did you come across? Are there any current political NHS issues that you experienced on the wards?
What do you think the patient experience is like? How could you improve this?
What if I can’t get any work experience?
Universities appreciate that sometimes medical work experience can be difficult to arrange. This will not disadvantage you as long as you can show you have made a serious effort to experience healthcare environments and learn what life as a doctor is like. Examples can be working as a Health Care Assistant, volunteering in care homes and volunteering in a hospital. As long as you can reflect on these experiences and show a mature understanding of life as a doctor, you will not be disadvantaged.
As you can see, there’s more to work experience than a few days on the wards trailing behind a Consultant. Make sure you put in the time and effort to get the most from your time in the hospital and you will reap the rewards.