A lot of medical students choose to volunteer because of the benefits that it affords their CV, but that’s not the be-all and end-all of the opportunities it gives you.
When you’re focused on medical school, getting time to do things you enjoy can be scarce, and doing things that aren’t necessarily useful for your personal statement or CV might seem like a waste of time.
Volunteering is a good way to counter all of that – no matter what you choose to do, you can always link it to professional development, no matter how unrelated it may seem.
Volunteering is the perfect way to give back to your community, do something you love and bolster your CV at the same time, as well as gaining valuable skills you might not gain elsewhere.
The application for various levels of medical training has space to include your volunteering experiences and that’s only the smallest reason volunteering is an essential part of becoming a doctor.
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Volunteering is a really good way to show you have the dedication needed to ensure success, and not just for yourself. If you’ve committed to doing an hour a week of work for someone else, you can show that you’re willing to put in the effort for others without expecting reward, and that’s an essential part of being a doctor.
Your colleagues will ask you for help on wards and patients that are not your own, and volunteering is a good way to show you have accepted the idea of extra work being needed to help others.
You’ll constantly be asked to do jobs that are technically not part of the work your contract specifies, and having volunteering under your belt shows you’re the kind of person that’s willing to take on a bit more than needed to help others. Dedication and teamwork in one – what’s not to love?
Different medical schools also provide guidelines of what they want to see in your work experience, which you can see on our Medical School Work Experience Requirements page.
How much work experience do you really need? We speak to six current med students on what they did before applying>>
Literally any form of volunteering has its benefits. Perhaps you’re away from home and desperately missing the time spent with your dog? Volunteer at an animal shelter.
Perhaps you want to work on your skills in talking to young people? Work in a school. Maybe you want to show you have the ability to teach so that you can get a job in medical education? Tutor those in the year below you.
Volunteering is a great way to work on any of the skills you need whilst also being a really fun and easy way to spend your time. It’s a time away from revision and work that’s still productive, but a lot more relaxed.
You can truly demonstrate your commitment to a cause or belief without the need for a personal reward. It gives you a natural sense of accomplishment that a tough course like medicine might not afford you, especially in the early days.
Whilst we get to see patients get better, long term volunteering projects will really show you the whole person and how they develop over time, giving you more insight into just why hospital medicine is only a snapshot into someone’s life.
On the other hand, volunteering doesn’t need to be a long term or time consuming experience- many places will be grateful for any and all help you can provide, whether that’s ten minutes or ten days.
Volunteering has been shown to increase both the self-esteem and overall happiness of volunteers. You get to make new friends outside of the medical school bubble, friends who don’t care what grades you’re getting or how many A-Levels you’ve got.
Working within your community strengthens your ties to that area and helps you to meet people who share common interests and goals, and who knows what opportunities that may afford you?
The strengthening of your social skills is a natural side effect of working with a new group of people, and this will help you to relate to and build a rapport with your patients.
It keeps you in regular contact with a group of people and helps you to build a support network outside of your day-to day life, and this helps to combat the effects of depression and anxiety.
The only things you need to volunteer are a small amount of time and some positivity. In return, you get the sense of pride that comes from helping others, a new social network and valuable skills you can apply to any aspect of your life.
Words: Katie Hodgkinson
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