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How to Gain Medical Work Experience

Sometimes it can seem that the checklist for getting into medical school is never ending, with the need for good grades, work experience and extra-curricular activities a necessity. Often students dont know where to start, especially when it comes to arranging work experience. Here are some suggestions from Dr Jessica Howitt on starting to look for medical work experience for the summer!

Contact the work experience facilitator at your local hospital

Most hospitals will expect to have enquiries about work experience and will have a work experience facilitator that will arrange placements for students. Some hospitals may not accept applicants younger than 18, so youll need to research what the opportunities are at your local hospitals.

In general, hospitals will only offer one week of work experience per student, so universities wouldnt expect you to have done more than this. You can find the details for the facilitator either via the hospital switchboard or through the education centre at the hospital.

Remember that youll be asked what you learned from your work experience and how it influenced your decision to become a doctor, so make sure you keep a diary of what you did during your time, as well as any key learning points or reflections. You can use The Medic Portal’s Personal Portfolio tool for this. 

Ask your local GP surgery

Contact the practice manager at your local surgery and ask if they accept work experience students. Even if you cant work directly with a GP, it would be interesting to observe how a GP practice functions and the everyday challenges in primary care.

Use your connections

Do you know any doctors or other medical professionals? If so, use these contacts to your advantage. Even if they cant offer you work experience, arrange to talk to them about their career.

Take the opportunity to discuss both the positive and negative aspects of becoming a doctor, so you have a well- rounded view of what the professional involves. Demonstrating to the interviewer that youve taken time to learn about what the career involves and the challenges you may face shows initiative, maturity and dedication to the profession.

Volunteering in your local community

Its important to try and get some work experience if you want to become a doctor – most importantly so you know its the right career for you before applying. Medical schools will want to see that youve gained some insight into the profession, but theyre just as interested to learn about the type of person you are and whether you have the attributes needed to be a good doctor.

Volunteering is a great opportunity to help your local community, while also developing some key skills, like communication, that the interviewers will want to see.  Volunteering can be challenging, especially if youre working in environments youve never experienced before, like a nursing home or a special needs school. These experiences, however, will undoubtedly influence you positively and make you a much stronger applicant. Again, remember to keep a diary of your experiences and how they impacted you so that you can talk about these in your interview.

Medical schools want to see that youve taken the time to research your new profession before embarking on the long journey that lies ahead – and you certainly want to make sure youve made the right choice too! There are plenty of opportunities out there, it just takes a little initiative and perseverance to find them. Give yourself plenty of time to explore the options before the summer of Year 12, and before you know it youll have a fantastic application – good luck!

Words: Dr Jessica Howitt

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