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What Volunteer Work Will Build Skills for Medical School?

A female volunteer stands next to a male patient who is in bed and is looking at him

Volunteering is a popular option to build skills and boost your resume before applying to medical school. Here are some ideas to get you started on your search for volunteer work.

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Where should I look for volunteer work?

Finding volunteer work can be tricky and takes a lot of research, but finding volunteer work can be easy through job advertising websites, online search engines and word of mouth.

Some other places to look include local community groups, sporting teams, churches, schools and hospitals.

Read Is Medicine the Right Choice for Me?

Volunteer at a hospital

You might be keen to see what it’s like working in a hospital but not ready to choose medicine as a career path yet. Volunteering at a hospital will help you be a part of it, without needing any prior study or training. It is often more flexible than a job and you can choose to volunteer on a casual basis too.

Hospital volunteers usually help with providing directions for visitors, delivering flowers or meals to patients, working in a cafeteria or talking to patients staying in the hospital. To find out the specific roles, it’s best to contact your hospital.

Every volunteer department is different! Be aware that it is unlikely you will get help with any medical work as a volunteer, but make sure you still ask if that’s what you’re interested in!

Read 6 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Applying to Medicine

Get involved in first aid

First aid training is a great skill to have before embarking on a medical course. It provides you with the skills and knowledge necessary to know what to do is a medical emergency.

You will learn how to help patients and when to seek help from someone with more training and expertise. Gaining experience in patient communication, teamwork and decision making will be good preparation for medical school too.

After doing a first aid course, there are different ways you can put your skills into practice. Many local areas have a volunteer first aid group that provides services at community events. You could also volunteer your skills at weekend sports or in your workplace.

Read 5 Ways to Prepare Academically Before Medical School

Voluntourism

‘Voluntourism’ is a term that describes volunteering whilst travelling. It is a popular option for students who want to see new places and help the community while they are there. There are many experiences to choose from, but there are other options available too.

Volunteering overseas is a great way to learn or practise new languages, understand a new culture and live in a different country. You will have to move out of your comfort zone, which will prepare you well for medical school. As a medical student, you are often thrown into new situations with people you might not know very well or at all.

There are lots of different companies and agencies that provide international volunteer experiences. You need to make sure the agency you choose to go with is reputable and has experience and positive reviews.

This can be a costly way to gain experience, as you need to pay for flights, accommodation and often the experience itself.

Read 8 Tips to Prepare for Med School

Why not teach?

Teaching makes up a large part of what being a medical professional is like. You will share knowledge with your colleagues through meetings, presentations, training sessions and when looking after patients. As a doctor, you are often explaining to and teaching your patients and colleagues too.

Practising skills in teaching and education is a great focus for you volunteer work. Try asking at your local school if they have a homework club or study skills session. Research for volunteer positions helping disadvantaged children with their school work. If you have a particular skill, such as music or sporting, you can get involved by teaching your skill.

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Be open minded

Have you seen some volunteer work that you like the look of? Even if it’s different to what you’re used to, or you’re not sure if it’s relevant to being a medical student – you should still give it a go!

Volunteer work is rewarding, as it teaches you new skills and is a great way to build new friendships and connections. It could lead to a future career and study choices too!

Read What to Do if You Don’t Get Into Medical School

Words: Mary Agapides

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