Most candidates will have undertaken hospital work experience, but only the best candidates will be able to successfully reflect on their experience in their personal statement, or answering questions about it in interview.
It does not suffice to simply describe what you did – it is crucial that you are able to reflect on what you learnt, and how this influenced you to pursue a career in medicine, or confirmed to you that it was the correct choice. Medical schools want to see an insight into the realities of a medical career.
To give you an idea of the type of things you could be reflecting on, here are three things I learnt from my hospital work experience.
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Teamwork is one of those obvious buzzwords that you think about when writing your personal statement. You try really hard to show medical schools how well you worked in your school newsletter team, or how successful your football team was. During my work experience, I saw first-hand why these things matter so much.
Doctors work in teams for almost everything they do. At the start of each day doctors participate in a “handover” meeting, whereby the night staff pass on what has happened overnight, and what jobs need completing. Already, good teamworking skills are required to be able to successfully achieve this. The jobs must then be distributed amongst the team.
Following this, a ward round must take place, whereby the team splits up to ensure that every patient is seen and reviewed. Any changes or updates should be communicated with the rest of the team.
Not only do doctors work with other doctors, but also with other healthcare professionals such as nurses, physiotherapists and speech therapists. Everybody on the team has different skills and competencies, and working together ensures the best outcomes for the patient. There’s simply no room in medicine for trying to be a lone wolf – teamwork is key!
Medicine is an incomprehensibly vast field. Nobody can possibly know everything about everything. In my hospital work experience, I saw that sometimes, doctors see a patient and have absolutely no idea what is wrong with them. This is definitely not because the doctor is incompetent – it is simply the nature of medical work.
This can be difficult for a doctor to admit, but arrogance is not a desirable quality, and no doctor should believe that they will always know the answers. Furthermore, if you tell patients that you don’t know what is going on, more often than not, they will respect the honesty.
Good medical teams provide strong support networks that allow doctors to work together to collectively figure out and solve problems. The teamwork mentioned above eases the burden from each individual doctor.
This was one of the biggest things I learnt after my hospital work experience. Even though I was totally set on applying for medicine, I felt incredibly nervous about being in the hospital environment.
Everything seemed so intimidating, particularly when everyone around me knew each other and knew what they were doing. Initially, I thought this might mean that I wasn’t cut out for medicine.
However, even just after a few hours, and definitely after a few days, the initially terrifying environment felt so much more comfortable and welcoming. So, don’t worry if hospital environments seem a bit scary – everyone feels the same way when they first start anywhere!
In fact, I can confirm that five years later, I still feel intimidated when I start working in a new ward or clinic. This is completely natural, and it always improves with time.
Words: Mariam Al-Attar
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