Beginning the journey of applying to medical school is daunting. One of the most important things on your journey is arranging medical work experience – but where to start?
The Medic Portal engages with over 500,000 aspiring medical students each year – and here they provide some top tips on how to gain medical work experience!
- Work experience programmes
Find out if your local hospital has a work experience programme; if this is the case then it will be much easier to apply. Examples include Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital work experience programme. Some programmes have entry requirements, so make sure you read the instructions on the application forms carefully.
The programmes may allow you to choose a department, or allocate you to one that is suitable. They usually provide a structured timetable too, which can be very reassuring as you know what to expect.
- Hospitals, GP surgeries and beyond
Hospitals and GP surgeries can be notoriously difficult for securing placements. If there are no programmes available, you can try to contact them directly. The NHS recommends that you contact “human resources, voluntary services or education and training departments”, so have a look on the internet for the contact details for your local hospital. For a GP placement, you should address a letter or email to the Practice Manager.
However, if you don’t succeed in getting accepted, don’t panic. Medical schools are interested in knowing that you have an awareness of healthcare systems and environments, and therefore there are other places you can try, such as pharmacies or opticians – so you could explore these options. Remember that it’s all about how you apply your experiences to medicine.
- Voluntary work
Medical schools are aware that obtaining work experience placements for medicine is tricky. For this reason, they are usually happy to accept voluntary work in a healthcare environment such as a nursing home. Some hospitals also have voluntary schemes whereby you can spend time with patients on the wards to provide them with a social outlet. You can see the kinds of work experience that different medical schools require on The Medic Portal’s Medical School Work Experience Requirements page.
Voluntary work gives you different insight into medicine than a traditional work experience placement does, but it can be just as valuable. Through voluntary work, you can appreciate the less “glamorous” side of healthcare jobs, and at the same time show that you are a caring individual who is eager to get involved in patient care. Voluntary work over a prolonged period of time will also show your dedication.
It is important to start arranging work experience as early as you can as this will allow you time to apply elsewhere if you don’t gain a place. It will also make the whole experience less stressful as you won’t have the additional pressure of running out of time. Try to get as much experience as you can, but don’t worry if you struggle – it’s the quality, not the quantity, that counts. The most important thing is your reflection on what you learnt. Good luck!
The Medic Portal is officially partnered with the Royal Society of Medicine, and provides advice and resources for aspiring medical students, including BMAT, UKCAT and Medical School Interview guides.