5 Original Ways to Write About Work Experience in Your Personal Statement
Attending your placement was fun but writing about it in your personal statement can prove harder than expected. If this sounds familiar, read on for some top tips on how to reflect on work experience in your personal statement.
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Let’s be honest – a career in medicine is not going to be all plain sailing. The workload and responsibilities can be tough and emotionally difficult to deal with.
You’ll likely come across situations that highlight this during your placements – don’t be afraid to talk about them in your personal statement. Some applicants can be reluctant to write about the less positive of medicine, worrying that it will make them sound unenthusiastic.
On the contrary, it will only show that you have a mature insight into what it’s like to be a doctor. This might even be a good time for you to reflect about how you personally deal with stress.
Part of reflecting is about acknowledging the preconceptions you had about being a doctor. Consider how they may have changed after seeing medical teams in action to show how your placement has helped shape your views on a career in medicine.
The best way to get an honest and balanced view of what it’s like to be a doctor is by observing them in their natural habitat. Observing doesn’t have to be a passive process; actively listen and closely watch how doctors interact with patients and the rest of their team.
If you spend time in different departments, take note of the different vibes they give. Being in the emergency department is very different to sitting in a GP clinic or watching surgery.
Be proactive and take every opportunity you get to talk to people during your placement. Many doctors who see students looking engaged are happy to teach and discuss cases with them. Talk with the medical teams to understand the process that goes with diagnosing and treating patients. Learn from them what they like and dislike about their job.
Talk with patients, they will often have inspirational stories and little nuggets of golden advice on what they think makes a good doctor.
While you are on your placement it can be useful to keep a work experience diary. Document your day and how you felt throughout. Here you can describe what you saw, your interpretations and impressions. Think about what skills you saw the medical team portray and how you can use those skills yourself.
Jot down anything you want in this diary – no one but you is going to read it. If you’re struggling to see what you’ve gained from the placement, the process of writing it out can help you figure out what you’ve learnt.
When you come to write your personal statement have a read of your diary. Looking back on what you wrote can give you a new perspective. Find the bits which still resonate with you or you can remember clearly and choose those as your starting point for writing.
If you are not keen on writing a diary, you can try mind mapping too.
Avoid falling into the age-old trap of describing every detail of what you saw on your work experience placement. It might be super interesting but the people reading your personal statement don’t need every detail. What really matters is showing how what you saw has contributed to your decision to become a doctor.
A good way to avoid simply describing your placement is to use the following checklist:
Set the scene- this should be as brief as possible
What have you learned from this scenario or how has it made you feel
Why is what you learned important?
Cover these three things every time you write about one of your placements to make sure that whoever is reading your personal statement can see that you have reflected upon your experiences.
5. Find links between yourself and the doctors you shadow
When reflecting on your work experience look for similarities between yourself and the health professionals you shadowed.
Many of the skills that make a great physician are not exclusive to the medical profession. You will already have some of these skills yourself. Think about the skills you use in your extra-curricular activities and daily life that resemble those used by medical professionals.
Linking your own skills with those that doctors have will show that you already have the foundations to be an exceptional doctor.
Hopefully with these five tips you’ll be five steps closer to becoming a master at reflective writing and having a brilliant personal statement!