Work Experience in your Medical School Applications
1 month ago by Chris
Obtaining work experience is an important part of the medical school entry process. However, obtaining work experience has become significantly more difficult since the COVID pandemic. Many hospitals have cancelled or restricted their work experience programs, and other health facilities have become more reluctant to accept students into their organisations.
However, it is still important that students obtain work experience for the medical entry process. In this blog, we will discuss why work experience is important, and some work experience substitutes that you can undertake.
Why is medical work experience important?
Work experience in a medical or health related setting is important for several reasons. Firstly, it enables you to gain a realistic understanding of medicine as a profession, and helps you decide if medicine is the right career for you. Secondly, it demonstrates to universities that you understand the realities of medicine, rather than having a romanticised view of what the career entails. Thirdly, it demonstrates to medical schools that you have a strong motivation to pursue medicine as a career.
Although medical schools do not require you to have undertaken work experience, such experiences are highly valued during the application process – both in written applications and in medical interviews.
How to obtain work experience
It can be difficult to secure a work experience opportunity, therefore, it is important to start the process early. Research hospitals in your area to see if any will allow work experience placements for students. Some have application date limits and some have limits on the number of students they will accept. Some hospitals offer work experience courses running over several days, and some involve a fee.
If you are unable to secure a work experience opportunity in a hospital, or if you have a particular interest in community-based medicine, you could try contacting local General Practitioners or Specialists in your area. You can contact them via phone, email or letter, expressing your interest in a career in medicine and asking for permission to undertake work experience at their practice. Contacting several clinics will increase your chances of being offered a place.
Note that it is preferable to engage in a couple of significant experiences, rather than lots of simple or minor activities. Medical schools are interested in quality rather than quantity.
There are some organisations which claim to take you on “work experience tours” to overseas countries for a fee. Be wary of these. They can be expensive, and you may give the impression at your medical interview that you are very privileged, which may be to your disadvantage.
Making the most of your work experience
Obtaining a work experience placement is only the first step. Once you have secured a work experience opportunity, it is important to take steps to make the most of it.
During your work experience placement, engage in as many clinical opportunities as possible – ask for permission to sit in on patient consultations, participate in ward rounds, or observe procedures in theatre. Ask lots of questions of doctors and other healthcare professionals so you can gain a realistic insight into life as a doctor.
Ensure you record and reflect on your experiences. It is a good idea to keep a diary where you record what you did, what you learned, and how it has impacted upon your desire to pursue medicine as a career. This will help you later in the year when you have to create written applications and sit medical interviews.
Work experience alternatives
If you are unable to secure a work experience opportunity, there are other ways of gaining an insight into the medical profession and demonstrating to universities that you have a realistic understanding of medicine as a career. Check out our blog which discusses alternatives to in person work experience.