Please note that views expressed in this post are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Medic Portal.
Written by Ruari McGowan
If you can’t secure placement at a hospital, there are plenty of alternatives that work just as well. I volunteered for just under two years at the local children’s hospice. This was a really amazing opportunity and was a lot more hands-on than direct work experience tends to be. I got to see all different members of the healthcare team in a hospice and how they interacted as well as having the privilege to work with kids and their families.
Securing work experience is most valuable if you are able to utilise it during the application process. I was able to take this hospice experience and apply it very directly when it came to my Personal Statement and interviews as I observed excellent teamwork, I learnt about the difficulties associated with end of life care and how to provide support in those situations.
Voluntary experience is just as valid as time spent shadowing a Doctor and can often be easier to come by.
In terms of direct work experience, I had two days in a GP surgery in my hometown and that was about it for NHS-based work experience. The key thing I took from this was it really isn’t quantity when it comes to work experience that helps you but what you get out of it.
I got so much out of these two days because I knew it was all I had to utilise. I was able to observe the different facets that go into running a partner-owned GP surgery, I saw the role of specialist nurses in the management of chronic disease and how valuable this was both for patients and for distributing the workload of Doctors to experts within the practice.
While on a holiday in America I got in contact with a local Medical School and asked if I could come and see how they operated and perhaps get involved in some research while I was there, which I did. This was a fantastic opportunity which taught me a lot about the Doctor as a researcher, not just a clinician.
All of these things above can often be much easier to achieve than time in a hospital. Hospitals are incredibly strained and busy environments which is why it can be hard to find a way in but you will spend plenty of time in them once you are at Medical School.
Volunteer work is a great opportunity to see healthcare in action over an extended period of time. Contacting your local GP is a good idea as they know you and are normally keen to help. Research sounds difficult but contact your local university or start something yourself – Medical Schools like to see initiative.
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