Finding work experience can be challenging as a student. Not sure where to start? This article will give some some suggestions of alternative forms of work experience and how to use them in a medical school application.
When applying for medicine, admissions tutors are looking to see that you have an insight into the realities of a medical career and healthcare profession. Undertaking work experience also shows that you are motivated to study medicine as you have taken the time to explore and research it further.
There are many ways you can gain experience; however, it is important to note that the specific experience is not considered the most important part of your application. Rather, it is the skills you have developed, insights gained and reflections you have made following that experience, that admissions tutors are far more interested in. This means you do not have to secure hospital or GP placements in order to become a successful applicant – especially as the recent COVID-19 pandemic has made it much more difficult to attain work experience. Virtual experiences may be considered equally to in-person experiences as long as your reflections are strong. Similarly, non-medical work experience can be incredibly valuable too, whether that's volunteering in a primary school or care home, or working in retail or in a tuition centre.
Below are some suggestions of non-medical work experience that you could undertake in order to gain an insight into healthcare professionals and develop your skills:
Many students worry that non-medical work experience may not be as valuable, however, this is a big misconception! Any work experience where you have the opportunity to develop professionalism and character is an asset to both your personal growth as well as your application towards medical school. For example, working in retail may help to build your confidence and resilience which is a skill that is incredibly important as a doctor when handling challenging situations and long hours. Similarly, you may have developed your communication skills as a sports coach, significant for doctors who are constantly communicating with patients, family members and colleagues at all times. In order to make the most of your non-medical work experience, have a think about the skills you have learnt from your experience and how you can apply this to a medical context when writing your personal statement and practising for interviews. For a comprehensive list of skills and how to draw links from them, keep an eye out for our post on ‘What to write in a personal statement for medicine’.
Sending emails asking for medical work experience can be quite daunting. We have made a comprehensive step by step guide to help you. The key is to be proactive, polite and persistent. If you don’t hear back straight away, do not get disheartened. Keep trying and send emails to multiple organisations.
We highly recommend reading our blog post on how to write a professional email enquiring about medical work experience!
It can be a useful idea to document your experiences as this can help you pick out specific examples writing your personal statement and preparing for interviews. Check out our Work Experience Reflection Guide for a detailed breakdown on how to do this!
Author: Sakina Lakda
Editor: Allegra Wisking