Published on 29th March 2017 by lauram

Applying to Medicine and worried that you don’t have enough work experience?

Many students are concerned that they don’t have enough medical work experience (or other relevant experience) to reference in their Personal Statement or at interview. However, the good news is that you’ll likely already have a breadth of experience (whether this is working in retail or catering) applicable to medicine that you may not have considered. Here are our tips on making the most of your experiences!

Think quality, not quantity

It is not about making long lists of achievements and accolades, or reeling off an extensive list of 15 different wards you’ve worked in. It is about what you learn from the experiences that you have. Talking about what you saw does very little, but explaining what you learnt can go a long way. Remember this when looking for work experience – it’s better to make the most of a few placements than to speed through lots of them.

Use your existing skills

You may have experience working in retail or in customer service – and you can use these existing skills to your advantage in your application.

For example, working as a waiter doesn’t immediately appear to offer transferable skills to a medical degree but if you think about the role you’ll find it does. A waiter must have excellent communication skills to deal with the breadth of people that come into the restaurant. They must display patience when dealing with difficult customers. There are elements of multitasking, teamwork – perhaps leadership too.

As you can see, it is possible to extrapolate relevant experience from something which at first glance might seem quite unrelated.

Making the most of your experience

Let’s say you only had three days in your local general practice. In an interview scenario or in your Personal Statement, you could, for example, talk about how you gained a better understanding of the importance of empathy in a doctor-patient relationship, or that you learned the value of asking open questions to patients to allow them to talk broadly about their concerns before moving on to specific questions. 

That might sound exaggerated but it isn’t – those are the things that I learnt from my limited medical experience before applying and I didn’t feel it hindered me in the slightest. Medicine attracts people from all different backgrounds and you should use what you have when it comes to applications!

Just because someone has done 100 different things doesn’t necessarily mean they have learnt the important skills or developed qualities that make a good medical student, so don’t worry that you haven’t had enough experience. Make what you have work for you, make it relevant and give it your all. Good luck!

Words: Ruari McGowan


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