Gaining experience and exposure
Work experience and enhancing your knowledge of the medical career comes in many forms, and extends far beyond following a consultant around their daily life in the hospital.
Whilst I spent the obligatory few days taking part in structured hospital work experience, I learnt far more about a career in medicine through the opportunities I sought out away from organised and official ‘work experience’ in a clinical environment.
What did I do?
I worked as a healthcare assistant in my local nursing home for many years every Sunday, and in the summer holidays, I would work on a science camp for kids - I had an interest in paediatrics as a speciality from an early stage.
One summer holiday I joined a residential revitalise holiday as a volunteer helping to provide trips and activities for adults with additional needs, to offer respite to their families and carers.
I also found myself drawn to extracurricular activities which offered an insight into healthcare, such as St John Ambulance Cadets.
To gain more exposure to hospital environments (and to overcome my tendency to faint at the sight of blood) I also volunteered once a week at my local hospital. I served meals to the patients and helped those who could not feed themselves.
Gaining experience in medicine involves gaining experience interacting with your community and practicing the skills required to make a good doctor. Often this will not come solely from shadowing a medical professional around their routine daily tasks but instead comes from engaging with activities where you can get fully involved, take responsibility and show a longer-term commitment.
Remember gaining experience is more about quality than quantity - think about what you have really learnt and how it has shaped your perspective. Considering writing some notes of reflection at the time - future you will thank yourself when you come to share these stories in your personal statements and interviews! You might think you’ll be able to remember all the details but in a few months' time when you’re studying for A levels or busy with life, the little details might slip away!
Key point: Universities recognise that it can be hard to find medical work experience (particularly during the pandemic) and will consider non-healthcare placements if you’re able to show that what you learned can be applied to Medicine.
It is worth checking if the medical schools you are applying to have any specific requirements.
For example, I went to Bristol Medical School and they look for two weeks of experience. They understand it may be difficult to obtain clinical work experience, so “applicants are encouraged to seek out opportunities to work with the public in a customer service role, or volunteer in a care/health environment or a youth group.”
Ideas for gaining experience:
Hospital/GP work experience (check your local hospital's website as many have online application information!)
Nursing homes/ care homes
Schools/nurseries (will often take volunteers)
Kids camps (great place to get a summer job)
Community projects/ volunteering eg good gym
Age UK (volunteer to be matched to talk regularly to someone via phone calls to provide company/listening ear)
Healthcare assistant jobs
Ward volunteer (help serving meals/feeding patients/reading books)
Hospice (volunteer with creative activities/social activities)
Homeless shelters/ soup kitchens
Drug rehab centres
Mental health day centres
St John Ambulance