Firstly, you should think about getting in contact with a local GP, preferably not your own: this helps with confidentiality issues and will probably help in getting a better experience. GP’s usually have a couple of work experience places available and they can prove to be a good first step in the learning curve. Generally, you will be assigned to administrational tasks such as: filing records; making and taking telephone calls; reception work; dealing with prescriptions. If you’re lucky enough though, you can take the opportunity to shadow your GP, or nurse, in a few clinics, remembering that you’ll have to ask for patient consent. This should give you the chance to see how the GP’s clinics are run for a variety of different patients and illnesses.
It is also a nice idea to try and go around town and see if there are any charity shops that are willing to take you on as a volunteer. The best way to ask is to make a CV, and then go to each charity shop asking to see the manager. Just explain that you’re looking to work there as a volunteer and give them the CV. Now most people think that this is probably going to be a boring job, but you’d be surprised at the variety of things one can do in a charity shop. You can work upstairs working with all the goods in preparation for selling them, or you can work on the shop floor as an assistant. Work long and hard and you may even be lucky enough to work at the till. Hey, you might even got paid to reimburse your travel expenses.
Following on from this, it would probably be wise to try and find some volunteer work at a Hospice; Youth Club; Disability centres; Elderly People’s Home or Care centre. For ease, the following section will be broken down. Again, it is important you apply early, and are prepared for interviews too:
It is advisable that you apply for a placement to your local Hospice nice and early (bearing in mind you have to be 16+). Volunteer work is popular here and competition for the few places is extremely high. If you’re lucky enough to get in, this could be an invaluable experience to you. You can get close patient contact and can actually sit down and talk to people, whether it is nurses, the patients, your co-volunteers or the families that come to visit. Don’t be afraid: your job maybe to offer tea and biscuits but there’s no reason why you can’t grasp the opportunity to find out more. During your time here you may even experience death. Try to see how you deal with these sorts of situations as they can be easily talked about in Medical Interviews.
This is an engaging work scenario. Working with kids is always great but they can be quite mischievous to deal with too! It brings different scenarios into play and there’s a whole hoard of different things you can do here; from sports to arts to quizzes. Well worth doing a day a week or so (possibly more in holidays) and again it’s quite interesting to bring up in interviews. Something very similar to this is V-Project; a sports development scheme set up to give opportunities those less well off. Not only can you make friends, you are given an important leadership role in their society and this is an excellent opportunity for those who like working with the youth.
Disabled people are often great people to work with. They are optimistic in their approach to life and they rarely ever complain. Working with such people can be a difficult task, having to care for a lot of their needs, however it is without doubt one of the most rewarding pieces of work you can do. There are many different groups that you can enrol for however one of the most popular seems to be ‘Vitalise’. It is important that if you do decide to work with disabled people, you will need to be fully trained.
This, like the Hospice, is generally for the elderly. There is this common impression that elderly people are boring and that there’s nothing you can do for them, however it is most definitely a myth. Working here can provide you with the opportunity to talk to and interact with elderly people. You can see their daily routines and it can be quite interesting to see how different people have been affected by different illnesses e.g. diabetes will limit food options and patients with amnesia need to be talked to carefully, so as not to make them feel bad. A couple of weeks continuous is probably the best way to get the most out of this experience but it is also possible to carry on thereafter and revisit once a week.
An extremely difficult piece of work experience to get under your belt is at a hospital (Again, you will have to be 16+ by law). No doubt this is one of the most sought after work experience positions and competition is huge, simply because hospitals cannot afford to be looking after too many students; indeed many hospitals don’t offer any places. If you do manage to get one though, I suggest you relish the opportunity. It is a common question for people to be asked how to contact a hospital for a placement there and it is paramount that you apply extremely early, at least 6 months before you hope to be working there. The best way to get in touch is to phone up the ‘Voluntary Services’ department of every hospital within your reach, giving as much information as you can. It is however easier, to get a placement, if you have ‘contacts’ in the medical profession, especially if they work in the hospital you are trying for. Some hospitals will interview candidates to see if they are fit to work in the environment whereas others will be less pressing towards the matter.
It will vary depending on where you go as to what work experience you will be offered, but you will almost certainly be offered time with a doctor in his clinics. Radiology is also another popular department as it is easy to have a look at what is going on and have things explained to you as they occur. The only legal procedures you’ll be able to see at 16-18 though are endoscopies etc… They’re well worth it though and a day or two seeing some of these is without doubt time well spent. Other departments that you really can enjoy include Haematology, Cardiology, A&E, General Surgery, ICU (usually conjoined with Cardiology), Anaesthesia, Dermatology and ENT.
Getting a week's work experience in a pharmacy is usually not difficult, as no CRB check is required. If you have one near you, try to apply to one closely linked (even onsite) to a particular GP surgery as this may mean you are given the chance to talk to a GP. A placement in a pharmacy allows you many opportunities, which include but not limited to: interacting with the public in a professional role (developing communication skills), understanding the role of a pharmacist in primary care, understanding the role of a pharmacist in the multidisciplinary team, how pharmacists aid in prevention of disease as well as treatment through advice and services such as fresh start and cholesterol checks, role in needle exchange programmes, how they can assist patients in remembering to take their medication regularly and delivering their medication to their homes.
Teaching in schools as a part time assistant is an excellent way to gain some work experience. You can learn to work with children and at the same time you can improve your communication skills whilst teaching a subject that you like. This is an excellent opportunity which you can organise by yourself, or through your school. All you need is a couple of hours off on a week day.
Overseas charity work is becoming more common place as work experience carried out by prospective medical students. Although expensive and hard to set up, it’s an eye catching piece of work for anyone. Common work includes going to countries in Africa and Asia with a charity or group to help with the aid efforts. If you’re lucky enough, you might even be able to work in the hospital tents set up for emergencies.
Specialist Medical work experience companies exist such as Gap Medics which can arrange medical experience for you abroad combined with a travel experience too.
It is also possible to gain good work experience in a professional background abroad. Places like Australia, Malta, Europe and America are popular locations for these ventures and you can most definitely learn a lot from such experiences. Working in countries with a different first language can also be entertained as a prospect and this will no doubt show that you have good communication skills as well as the fortitude required as a prospective Medical student. Example jobs include working in overseas Pharmacies, Private Hospitals and Dental Clinics but anything will suffice.
More and more people are starting to do the Duke of Edinburgh award. The scheme is extremely popular and if you do decide to join, you can find yourself helping people or the community, getting fitter, developing skills and going on expeditions. The best thing about it is that you can choose the things you want to do yourself and still enjoy your time learning and integrating with different societies. Although not free, it is highly recommended by many.
Similar to the above is the St John Ambulance training schemes. They offer over 70 courses for people to learn and their life saver course is extremely popular, even amongst the general public. This is a good opportunity to learn about First Aid and can be useful to talk about as a practical experience.
Open University Courses (YASS scheme) are quite popular however they can be somewhat time-consuming. The modules are generally recommended for those who have a deep interest in a particular module and would potentially be a good talking point at interview, and a great opportunity to show motivation. The only way to apply for the YASS scheme is through your school and there is a fee of around £90.
Clubs and Societies form a large part of many applicants’ week. Whether it is sports, music, drama or science, clubs and societies show that you have the ability to relax and take time out to do something you enjoy (especially important for such a difficult and long degree). You need to show Universities that you are a dynamic person; someone who can enjoy their time by balancing their workload with other activities/hobbies.