Work Experience: Volunteering (School)
Looking for medical work experience? Here, our writer Riley discusses volunteering in a school for children with special needs, and how to use voluntary work experience in your medicine application.
This blog outlines my experience with getting work experience at a local school for children with special needs while I was in college, in preparation for my application and eventual interviews for medical school. The experience you have working and volunteering is going to be instrumental to your personal statement, as well as giving you a range of examples to talk about during interview questions. It is also your opportunity to get a little taste of what medicine can be like, and make sure that it is really going to be right for you.
Use contacts from your school
I was incredibly lucky in that my college already had a scheme set up with the local school. It is highly likely that your college or sixth form will have had students applying to medical school before, and they may be able to suggest places to you, or give you contact details for work experience that they know students have successfully applied to in the past. I would suggest asking multiple people; teachers, tutors, administrative staff, even the principal if you’re not having any other luck. More options are always better than less.
To get this placement I spoke with my personal tutor, as well as several members of the administration, and eventually met with one of the teachers at the school. Meeting the teacher was fairly casual, as she was grateful to have an extra pair of hands around the classroom. Prior to starting the placement I had to apply for a Disclosure and Barring Services (DBS) Certificate, which is normal protocol for most healthcare placements.
Make the most of your placement
I found the placement incredibly enjoyable. Helping young children with learning difficulties study was a rewarding experience in itself. The more you enjoy your placement, the more you will find to talk about it, so really throw yourself in. A long term placement also shows that you’re able to be committed to a subject – useful evidence that you are going to be happy in medicine for the rest of your life!
Whilst doing the placement, I kept brief notes on my experiences and feelings. This meant that when it came to writing my application, I could think of concrete examples to support the skills I claimed to have learned. A key example I used was that I believed the placement had taught me communication skills for people with a diversity of needs. Young children and people with learning difficulties may not understand teaching when it is communicated traditionally, so I was able to practice non-verbal communication and simplifying messages to the level of the audience. I also learnt to engage them in activities through messages that made sense to them, such as images and practical tasks.
The volunteering I did at the school helped to balance out my personal statement. It meant I could show that I had both clinical experience and experience working with more diverse groups. Medicine is important in community as well as the hospital, and if you can it is fantastic to be able to show experience of both.
Words: Riley Botelle