While you’re considering a career in medicine or preparing to apply to medical school, gaining some medical work experience is a great idea.
It can help you to learn more about the field, provide you with rich and relevant experiences to draw on for applications and show pre-existing interest and enthusiasm. However, it can be tricky to find opportunities that are interesting and useful.
Here are five tips on how to find medical work experience that is worth your time.
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Although it is natural to want to experience a clinical setting, medical work experience is not just limited to a hospital or GP practice. In fact, you can develop transferable communication and problem-solving skills further afield, just as effectively.
Consider other health-related areas, including community-based carers and services, not-for-profit organisations and first aid volunteering. Other things to explore could include health or biotechnological research as an assistant or paid work in medical reception and administration.
It is often logistically challenging to find clinical experience as a pre-medical student for a number of insurance and privacy reasons, so being creative will definitely pay off.
With most things in life, the early bird tends to get the worm. The earlier you apply, the more likely you’ll get the positions and opportunities you want, or at least have time to explore back-up options.
For example, hospitals often offer limited nursing and allied health placements for high school work experience students. These can fill up quickly. Make a note of when applications open or contact the hospital for information early on to get ahead of the curve.
The sooner you get started, the better it is. There’s little sense in waiting!
You should approach your search for work experience or volunteering as if you’re seeking formal employment. Many organisations will request to see a CV, so having a well-prepared one helps to show people you are serious and committed.
This might be the first time you’ve had to think about putting together a CV so it can be daunting to work out what exactly to include.
It is common to feel like you haven’t achieved much yet, but don’t look down on your experiences! Part time jobs, volunteering, leadership positions and awards big or small can all count and set you apart from the next applicant.
Even if you can’t find any information on a formal work experience or volunteering programs, be bold and contact people, hospitals, practices, not-for-profit organisations and companies anyway. They may be able to suggest other options or organise something just for you if you show your keenness and interest.
In the same way, it is a great idea to use your connections. Maybe you have a wonderful relationship with your family GP, or have a friend or family member working in healthcare. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them and see if they would be happy for you to observe for a short period.
The worst anyone can do is say no, but you won’t know if you don’t ask!
Volunteering overseas can be a really valuable experience both personally and professionally. This doesn’t have to be a medical experience to be relevant to you, with housing, empowerment and education being important determinants of health as well.
There are a number of agencies that provide volunteering opportunities in medicine, but also in conservation, construction, teaching English and many more.
Before you pack your bags, it is crucial to do your own research into ethical volunteering and choose organisations with meaningful local partnerships whose values you believe in.