• Izzy McNestry

Work Experience: Where to find it and how to make the most of it


How to find work experience? How to make the most of it? Work experience can come in many forms, each offering something different to incorporate into and strengthen your application. Wherever you are, there’s always something for you.


Practical Steps



The more direct your approach in contacting people, the faster the

response you’ll receive. Emailing is likely the easiest approach, other

options could be going into your GP and talking to a receptionist or other

staff. Go to your hospital website and you’ll find contact details for the

majority of staff there. Make use of anyone you know in healthcare – this

could be a friend’s parent, someone your teacher knows or a neighbour.



Shadowing



Observing a doctor or nurse throughout the course of a day or week is

also referred to as shadowing. You may get the chance to be involved in

taking minor observations, such as a patient’s temperature, but will never

be asked to be solely responsible for a patient or to complete a task you

have no experience with. If you are asked to do something you feel

uncomfortable about, always ask your supervisor for guidance – you won’t

be looked down on for doing so, often rather the opposite. Being in the

company of busy healthcare professionals can be daunting, and you may

feel out of place or not wanted but don’t let this affect your decision –

you’re probably not at the top of everyone’s priority list, so don’t take

offence.



To get the most out of your shadowing, be clear in communicating to your

supervisors. Politely let them know if you’re not busy, want to observe

something or have a free hand. When observing, if there are any very

basic tasks that need doing, offer your help – the more productive and

proactive you are, the more likely that you’ll be viewed as a competent

student, get more experience working and be offered more exciting tasks

later.



Volunteering



Rather than shadowing, volunteering in a healthcare setting is likely to be

more interactive than shadowing. Although you might not be helping out

in theatre, volunteering is best for providing true insight into the inner

workings of a hospital and could a be a great way of getting to know some

doctors or nurses. Look out for local charities working in hospitals or find

the volunteering section on your nearest hospital for more details. Care

homes, community groups and religious centres are also great places to

start.


Have a look at the ‘Do it’ website for opportunities to volunteer in

your area: https://doit.life/discover



Online Work Experience



A new concept emerging for students is online work experience. Offered

by Brighton and Sussex medical school, the online work experience offers

an introduction to the NHS and an exploration of the skill sets of different

medical specialists. Find out more through their website:

https://bsmsoutreach.thinkific.com/courses/VWE



Other online work experience:

https://www.rcgp.org.uk/observegp



Reflecting



State what you did, what skills you improved on and how these skills would be useful to medical school. Any more detail than this is likely to be wasting the word count on your personal statement so keep it concise. Keep a log of your work experience days and keep it update to date. This will make your life much easier when trying to find examples to use – you’d be surprised how much goes on and what you remember and forget.