When it comes to applying to medicine, universities want to see that you have the relevant experience to understand the nature of the profession – and work experience gives you the opportunity to observe some of the skills required to be a good doctor.
However, work experience isn’t always that easy to come by – not everyone is born the child of a neurosurgeon who can get them into different areas of medicine on a weekly basis!
I was not one of these people and I managed fine. Here are some helpful tips on how to organise your own work experience.
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If you have contacts in the medical profession then that’s great. If not, don’t worry, I didn’t have any family members or friends who I could ask, so I got emailing.
If you have no contacts, you have no limitations on what area of medicine you can get experience in. Pick an area that interests you and start emailing consultants. Most of their details or their secretary’s details can be found online. You might be surprised by how willing people are to take you on!
Some good things to mention in your email – why you want to shadow them (it’s a good idea to look up their research if they have any) and why you want to do medicine. Try to avoid specific dates where possible as this gives them less opportunity to say no!
Read how to use voluntary work experience in your medicine application>>
Time spent in primary care is just as valid as hospital work experience and extremely useful in observing a range of things useful to reflect on in your application – from communication skills to the multidisciplinary team in action.
Medicine is practised in all different places – in community mental health centres, care homes, hospices and rehabilitation centres don’t be afraid to try these different avenues.
How much work experience do you need for a competitive application? We speak to six students here>>
Everyone thinks work experience has to be with a doctor, but medicine is a team sport and it’s really useful to witness it from another perspective.
For example, often students are asked at interview ‘why not nursing?’ – so seeing what their job involves is a great opportunity to understand the whole team better.
Learn how to answer why not nursing here>>
It’s a good idea when contacting doctors for work experience to give them an idea of what you would like to get out of the experience – and if there is anything in particular you would like to see.
Don’t be afraid to ask – people take note of initiative and even if they can’t accommodate, in my experience, they’re more likely to help you in any way they can.
See all med school work experience requirements here>>
When it comes to work experience it really doesn’t matter how much you have, six months spent in neurosurgery and one week in General Practice can be just as useful as one another.
What medical schools are looking for is not work experience as a tick box exercise, but as a learning experience. Make sure you aren’t compromising with long periods of poor experience – you are far better organising good quality experiences.
Words: Ruari McGowan
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