How to Get Work Experience for Medicine

It's that time of the year where prospective students for medical school are bright eyed and bushy tailed.  Getting into medical school (or any university degree nowadays) is no simple task.  One of the highest hurdles is gaining enough work experience to demonstrate your interest for the healthcare field but this isn't easy to come by.  A huge flaw is having the mindset that work experience shadowing a doctor is the most fruitful way to illustrate your understanding for the field and desire to learn but this is not the case.  Most medical schools are aware that work experience isn't handed out like candy and thus do not expect hours of shadowing written on your personal statement.  In fact, some of the most competitive students are the ones that haven't shadowed a doctor and went about a different path.  Here are a few ways you can gain appropriate work experience for the medicine course.

Ward Assistant.  A ward assistant is an in-patient care volunteering role that I personally carried out at various hospitals.  The main task is coming in during lunch time to feed patients that are unable to feed themselves for various reasons.  This is your atypical caring role which many universities expect to see. Other tasks include assisting the patient to the bathroom and simply accompanying them given that it can get very lonely in the wards.  I enjoyed this because there were times I would see the patient's health develop and, soon enough, they were able to carry out all these tasks themselves without the help of a third person.  As we know, nurses are in very high demand and having an extra pair of hands on the ward is priceless to them.  You gain a huge appreciation for nurses and understanding of their job role which is crucial when working in healthcare.  Most hospitals are always looking for ward assistants and volunteers so it is worth checking your local hospital's website.  Generally, this is not a highly demanding role which requires a couple hours a week max so it will not intrude or affect your a level studies. Furthermore, the direct patient contact will not only aid in gaining skills but nourishes the soul.  Similarly, one can volunteer in a care home, which I did not do so cannot speak much about it.  Nonetheless, it is  equally as rewarding.

GP Surgeries.  Many GP surgeries are looking for volunteers to man the front desk or help sign post patients to where they need to go.  This is experience I carried out every week during my GCSEs.  It is less likely that smaller GP surgeries will have such opportunities available and this role will not have much direct patient contact.  However, the role does not matter but it is what you take from it.   This role can aid in team working and communication skills as you will be working and communicating with other members of staff and the public, all of which are vital when applying for any medical course. 

Healthcare Assistant.  This is a very common paid role that many graduates in particular tend to lean towards but any student over the age of 16 is able to train and gain the qualifications required to become an HCA. Not only does this involve working with patients but you carry out health checks, monitor vitals, take blood, health promotion, feeding, and washing patients for example. The list is endless.  An HCA will provide clearer insight on how life as a junior doctor will fair (to an extent) as well as how one works in a multi-disciplinary team.  You will work closely with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare staff.  You can work part time or on 'bank' so, only when required urgently, you will be needed to work and this ensures it does not interfere too much with your school work.  I recommend carrying out the training and preparation over school holidays when there is less educational commitment.  

Summer Internships.  There are various summer internships that enable students to travel to less fortunate countries to work in hospitals or community centres.   Here is a link to one of many programmes available: Projects Abroad. The pros is that you work in professional clinical environments, shadow doctors and nurses, understand healthcare at a global level, and begin to learn essential medical skills that are similar to what HCAs carry out.  Students are sent out to Nepal, Philippines, and Sri Lanka for example and you can choose your destination and dates.  Another pro is that you can choose the length of the trip from one week so that you do not need to block out a huge amount of your summer holidays. If I had the courage and finances to do this, I would in a heart beat.  As someone who is passionate about global health this would be a God-send.  However, with that being said, a common con is the need to finance this trip yourself which can cost anywhere from £1,350 which can be steep for some.  

Anything else. This is a bullet point that I felt is very significant.  Even if you are unable to attain work experience that you are satisfied with, you can pull the necessary skills required of a doctor from other tasks.  For example, working in McDonalds or the Library can teach you discipline, communication, and team work.  You can learn leadership skills if you are designated manager of a project.  My freelance stylist job has enabled me to improve my communication and listening skills and understanding a client's needs.  This will easily translate to talking to patients.  In many jobs, one must be empathetic and compassionate, especially in client or public facing roles.  One can read and even watch Vlogs about medical students or doctors and improve their perception of the job, the pros and cons, and process of becoming a consultant.  There is a wealth of knowledge and information available nowadays and most importantly, a medical school wants to see your passion and effort to know the field.  Do not be discouraged if you're not able to obtain work experience; being honest in your personal statement and interview is important and discussing how you came out of this road block can demonstrate determination.  This is your dream to fight for.

Feel free to check out my LinkedIn here to gain a better understanding of work experience I did throughout the years. 

Thank you for reading and I wish you best of luck for your applications! 

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