Work experience is an important element of your application that demonstrates commitment and an understanding of the career upon which you are about to embark. It has never been easy to obtain placements in a medical setting such as a hospital or GP surgery, and COVID restrictions have made these virtually impossible. However, the pandemic has opened up a wider range of volunteering opportunities in helping the elderly and vulnerable. What you do is less important than what you have learnt from it, and showing understanding and empathy is as valuable, if not more so, than a week observing hospital procedures.
The Medical Schools Council states that it is essential applicants gain people-focused experience of providing care or service. This can be:
A weekend job in a shop can provide relevant experience just as much as shadowing a doctor. What is important is how you approach it, what you learn from it, and how you express it in your personal statement and at an interview.
Keep a portfolio of everything relevant you have done, including what you have learnt from the experience and any research you were prompted to do as a result.
Include it in your UCAS application of course, but also make sure your teachers are aware of what you are doing, for when they write your reference. Better still, BLOG about it. Include details of what you feel you are achieving – but remember to preserve confidentiality if you are talking about particular cases.
Visit our free blog site by clicking here where you can create your blog and we will share it with every medical school in the country and with your school
If you can’t get a placement to observe a medic, then you can try talking to one. They are very busy people but may spare time if you offer to interview them for your blog on a specific topic like how they see the pandemic has changed their role. Most medical schools have student ambassadors who can be chatted to on their websites, and this can help you learn more about what it feels like to be a medic.
Not designed to replace the real thing, but nevertheless a useful and safe way to experience work as a doctor are the free programmes offered by Brighton and Sussex Medical School*, the Royal College of General Practitioners*, and Medic Mentor. The GMC and NHS England have developed a virtual reality app on patient experience.
*Recognised by the Medical Schools Council
There are lots of opportunities for volunteering. Check with your local community charities or check out websites like these:
Generally, medical schools are looking for you to learn and reflect on your experience, whatever it may be, and to be able to discuss it. You need to show how it has given you more understanding of what it is to be a doctor, including the physical and emotional demands, and that it has helped you in developing relevant skills, such as communication, observation, and teamwork.
For the medical schools you really want to apply to, check their websites to see all they have to say, but in the following table, there are some thoughts and suggestions from medical schools around the country