We will share advice on how to gain medicine work experience (during the pandemic). The information in this guide can be applied to gaining experience in dentistry and other healthcare courses.
Medical work experience is vital for anyone applying to medicine. It doesn’t just show that you are committed but helps you to decide if a medical career is right for you.
Gaining medical work experience is the best way to see what a career in medicine is really like. This guide provides a way on how you can gain work experience.
What is Medicine work experience?
Medicine work experience is any activity or experience that helps you to prepare for medical school and offers insight into life as a medical professional. They are extremely valuable as they allow students to develop a realistic understanding of medicine and demonstrate the values, attitudes and behaviours essential to being a medical professional.
Type of work experience
Work experience can be either direct or indirect, where you develop a realistic understanding of medicine and in particular the physical, organisational and emotional demands of a medical career. You learn the values, attitudes and behaviours essential to being a doctor such as integrity, teamwork, etc.
Direct work experience: These are people-focused experiences where you work with other people in a caring or service role, and in particular with people who are ill, disabled or disadvantaged. For example, working in hospitals, hospices, nurseries, special schools or a community-based setting.
Non-direct work experience: These are experiences through observing or listening to medical professionals—for example, use of online resources.
What type of experience do I need?
There are no rules as to what types of work experience you should undertake apart from the fact that it should fit with what the medical schools are looking for in terms of relevant experience to support an application. We recommend checking their respective websites for more information. We anticipate that during the pandemic, medical schools will adapt their expectations as more students will probably take on non-direct experience.
What medical schools look for in terms of work experience
Medical schools are different in how they assess work experience but primarily look for evidence that you have a realistic understanding of medicine and in particular the physical, organisational and emotional demands of a medical career. More important is your ability to demonstrate and reflect on what you have learned, both about yourself and about medicine.
It is what you learn about yourself; about other people and about how effective care is delivered and received that counts, not what you did. What you did is only a piece of the puzzle: make sure you can convey what attributes you demonstrate (or observe) and what you learned.
How to gain work experience during the pandemic?
It is a difficult time to try and gain relevant experience in healthcare as the country is on lockdown, and the NHS is stretched thin dealing with the pandemic. Most, if not all, outreach programs have been put on hold, and most paid employment opportunities have been stopped too.
In these circumstances, we recommend gaining an understanding of medicine through indirect experiences. These are experiences through observing or listening to other medical professionals.
Many healthcare professionals are posting online about their experience of working during the pandemic. Check out what they have to say and reflect on this.
All healthcare professionals can be a valuable source of information and experience, not just doctors. After all, doctors work as part of large teams involving many healthcare professions, so demonstrating that you have a sense of those professions and how they work together will help you in both your personal statement and interview.
There are some free online resources available that will give you a taste of what working in healthcare is all about. For example, free Virtual experience course by BSMS, ObserveGP by the RCGP or the NHS careers website.