Work experience is an essential part of applying to medical school, and it is usually a requirement to have some experience in a ‘caring’ position of some kind. It is difficult to find relevant paid work, but voluntary work is much easier to come by; get in touch with your local doctors’ surgery, hospital, residential homes and even the NHS Trust. Voluntary work looks good to medical schools as it demonstrates focus and commitment. It is rewarding and can help you to develop skills that may be required to study medicine. Paid work obviously has the benefit of money, but these jobs are hard to come by, especially if you’re spending a lot of time studying, are under 18 and don’t have much work experience. However if you do manage to get one, it shows that you have been trusted with responsibilities and tasks that are often more demanding than the tasks required of volunteers.
The key thing you need to gain from work experience is to be able to apply the things you’ve learned in a real-life setting. You need to be able to gain something from the experience, be it improved communication skills, confidence or even the value of working in a team to get a task done. In your interviews, you can talk about a specific experience and explain how it benefited you and what you learned from it. Find out our top tips for preparing for your interview!
Regular work experience in small amounts is better than a one-off stint, a few hours a week helping in a residential home is more beneficial to you than volunteering to help on the residents’ summer holiday (although if you can do both that’s even better!). With so much competition for places at medical schools there’s no such thing as too much work experience, so try to get as much as you can.
Another thing you could consider to build up your work experience is shadowing a health professional. Ask anyone you know or even your GP if you can shadow them for a while, this is to show you what doctors do and give you a chance to ask questions. You can talk to other health professionals and patients, and get a feel for what it’s really like to be a health professional. It can be difficult to find someone who will let you shadow them, so be persistent. Go further afield if you have to, and ask as many people as possible; it could be beneficial to your application.