Time to Get Creative With Work Experience

I have gotten a lot of questions from friends and younger students at my sixth form about work experience for applying to medicine. I found it very difficult getting work experience when applying and a lot of the time I was just too awkward or nervous to take opportunities to learn. My advice is just taking initiative and reach out to people. Obviously, due to COVID-19, chances of getting work experience in clinical settings like GPs and hospitals or even care homes is slim to none. This is your opportunity to get creative.

Do you know a neighbour that needs help collecting prescription medicine? Volunteer calling lonely people that are shielding or isolating right now. Summer schools and taster days have not disappeared and are transitioning to online platforms. Maybe you have a part time job? Do you work in a customer facing role? That is good for working with people and improving communication. Try mentoring younger students or having a mentor yourself that is in university.

I attended lectures at UCL that were open to the public, try looking if there are online alternatives like workshops. Challenging your own opinions and perspectives comes with reading and learning more about the field you want to move into. If you like to read, the BMJ has articles online. If you prefer to listen, try medical podcasts like ‘Sharp Scratch’. If you like watching, I recommend ‘The Surgeon’s Cut’ on Netflix.

If you are hell bent on getting some clinical experience, telemedicine is huge right now. Shadowing may not be possible in person for the foreseeable future but shadowing via video call is a potential option. Do you have any friends or classmates that also want to pursue medicine or related degree? Why not have weekly talks with aspiring medics about current events in the field or ethical issues? I can nearly guarantee that you will get a COVID related question at university, whether it be vaccine about the vaccine or transmissible disease in general.

There is the misconception you need weeks and weeks of clinical experience in a huge hospital. For full disclosure, I only had a few days in a hospital in London and the rest of my work experience consisted of volunteering at a care home, mentoring younger students at my high school and summer schools I had attended most of which were not even medical, but I had learnt what aspects I did or did not like.

Medical students are not robots and that is something admissions departments are looking for anyway. What do you do or enjoy outside of your studies? If you play sports, are you a part of any clubs or are learning a language, it is totally valid to bring up in a personal statement. You can turn nearly any skill or hobby you have into work experience.

My most important tip and take away from all this advice is reflection. Reflection is a skill I’m only just beginning to refine at university. Most of your personal statement and even when answering relevant questions at interview should include reflection. What did you learn from your work experience? How did it change you? What resonates with you? What skill did it improve?

I wish everyone applying the best of luck!

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