When applying for medical school, you often find yourself worrying about the grades needed in order to get a place. Unfortunately, good grades are not enough of a guarantee because pretty much every applicant will hit the minimum AAA boundary needed or go far above it. Many medical schools expect a variety of work experience within a range of areas to show that you have some knowledge and experience of the area you hope to go into. Whilst it may be simple in theory, in reality places are often limited and you may find yourself unable to do a lot of things.
Most places will not allow you to do any form of work experience until you are 16+ (unless it is through your school or similar situations like that) and for more clinical experiences you may even have to be 18. Even if you do find a placement that is willing to take you, it can often be hard to get a placement due to the large amount of applicants.
Fortunately, medical schools are not just looking for hospital or clinical experience and there is a huge variety of options you could consider.
- Schools or Out-of-School Clubs
These offer you valuable experience working with children, something you will have to do if you end up working in the healthcare profession. It’s often one of the more simpler forms to get, especially if you live in an area with a lot of schools.
- Care/Nursing Homes
These may be a little harder to get, but they can offer a lot more insight. It can give you the chance to experience different illnesses and see how the can affect people, whilst also giving you experience with caring for people.
Similar to nursing homes, but they are often much more limited with the places available. You may experience death whilst working there, which can give you a chance to understand how you’d deal with those situations.
- Special Schools
Working with people with disabilities can help to provide you with different insights and experiences that you might not get working at a regular school. It will allow you to see the ways that they are cared for and you might be able to get experience doing it.
I personally do not like the dentist, but if you do then by all means consider it. You’ll get experience talking to people and you might even get a chance to see some teeth being pulled out or something. I don’t know, I don’t really enjoy thinking about the dentist too much so you’d probably be better of researching this one yourself.
You can often get experience at a pharmacy as you shouldn’t need any specific checks for it. You will gain experience of how a pharmacist’s role plays into the healthcare system and other services that may be ran by them.
- GP Surgeries
These are definitely worth getting if you can, but places do fill up quickly. You will most likely be doing admin work but in some cases you may be able to sit in on clinics which can be extremely beneficial when it comes to things to talk about at medical school interviews
- Charity Shops
You’ll often have to deal with more elderly customers and it can give you important communication skills, which are absolutely necessary for medicine.
This is the first thing that anyone thinks of when you say work experience. It’s hard to get but extremely worthwhile if you can get it, however don’t dwell on it too much. You will likely just be shadowing/observing and it is much more valuable if you can show that you have actually practised these skills yourself.
- Scouts or Girl Guides
Becoming a leader or a young leader in one of the sections will show your commitment, your organisation skills, and your ability to care for others. You’ll often have to take a course but your group will usually cover the course for you. Also, you may be able to do other useful courses like first aid and safeguarding as part of it, which will also help to provide experience for your interviews.
- Online Courses
If you absolutely cannot find anything, then looking at researching things online and doing online courses. Whilst it isn’t as good as practical experience, it shows that you are independent enough to look at things yourself. Courses on subjects like medical ethics will help you to arm yourself with plenty of knowledge for your interview.
- St Johns Ambulance
Volunteering with them or taking on some of their courses is a great way to get some hands-on first aid skills as well as gain an understanding of their role within healthcare. There are opportunities for people of all age groups, so even if you are only just 16 there are still things for you to do.
- Personal Experience
If you have an elderly family member that you sometimes take care of or you often help out with your younger sibling that has disabilities then you can use that as experience too. It is the ability to reflect on the things you’ve done and apply them that will make you shine at interviews, rather than just having a long list of experience.
The final things to remember when applying for work experience for medicine are:
- Use what you have: if you have contacts anywhere within the caring community then use them. It shouldn’t be a game of who-knows-who but it definitely is and it is much more likely you will get a place that way
- Quality not quantity: having 10 weeks of experience is no good if you only shadowed a doctor and didn’t really do anything yourself. Having a variety of placements will help to show interviewers you are rounded and have plenty of experiences
- Take every opportunity: if you phrase anything right it can be applicable. Everything from tutoring to babysitting to fetching the shopping for your elderly neighbour can be useful in an interview, providing you can reflect on it and say what it has taught you
- Apply early: start looking around 6 months before you have to do it. This gives you plenty of time to ask around and you should be early enough to get the more limited places.
- Be proactive: ring up hospitals and care homes, write emails and letters to surgeons if you can. Be persistent but not pushy; they’re often busy environments so sometimes you just need to push your case a little in order to get a result.
I hope this was helpful, comment if you have any other suggestions of work experience for medical students and check out my Pinterest board below for more application advice!