When it comes to work experience, always remember that quality is more important than quantity. This means that Medical Schools are far more interested in finding out what you learned from your work experience than in how much time you spent there, or how many placements you’ve completed.
You shouldn’t waste time trying to get the most impressive or prestigious work experience placement – because how you reflect on it (in your Personal Statement and at interview) is a lot more important than what you actually did.
During your work experience, it’s a good idea to keep a diary and note down what you observe and what you learn about the realities of working in Medicine. This will help you to formulate your key learning points and reflections later.
When you’re looking to arrange work experience, it’s sometimes wise to call instead of emailing – particularly if you’re trying to contact a hospital or a GP surgery. You’re likely to get a quicker response, and even if the person you speak to first can’t help you, they can hopefully direct you to someone who can.
Emails can be easily lost or ignored, especially if you don’t have the direct email address of the person who would be most appropriate to contact. When you do call, ensure you are confident and know what you’re going to say in advance.
Most GP surgeries won’t accept work experience students who live locally. This is because if you live in the same area that their patients do, you might know some of the patients outside of surgery and there could be confidentiality issues.
Save yourself the rejection and only apply for work experience with GP surgeries in neighbouring towns/villages or in other parts of your city. You’re less likely to know the patients personally, so the GP surgery will be more inclined to accept you.
It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that medical work experience has to involve shadowing a Doctor. The truth is that while these are both popular types of medical work experience, there are many alternatives that can be just as valuable in your Medicine application – and certain Medical Schools even state in their requirements that hands-on experience is considered more valuable than shadowing.
Alternatives could include volunteering in somewhere like a care home or a hospice, where you’ll work as part of a team and interact directly with patients/residents. This type of long-term experience will also show motivation and commitment in your application. You could also volunteer with a charity and/or with vulnerable people.
You should ideally start arranging your work experience as early as possible – and try to be as flexible as you can. It can take a while to organise, so you’ll need to be patient and persistent.
Try to avoid leaving work experience until the last minute and panicking because it’s nearly time to start writing your Personal Statement for UCAS. At this point in the application process, you’ll need to spend time preparing for the UCAT and/or BMAT, in addition to your A-Levels, so it will be hard to find time for work experience too.
With some voluntary work, you might need to undergo a DBS check to ensure that you are safe to work with vulnerable people. It can take some time to process, so this is another reason to start looking early.
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