Getting HCA experience for GEM application Watch
Long(ish) time lurker, first time poster! This is the first time I've talked about my medical school ambitions with anyone other than close friends and family, so it's a little nerve-racking suddenly making it this little bit more "real".
In brief, I'm in my mid-20s, in possession of an arts/humanities undergrad and masters (in fact two masters in arts subjects—long story!), and am seriously considering a major career change into medicine. I've read through a lot of GEM-related threads on here as well as doing research elsewhere, and I'm encouraged by how many other people seem to have successfully made the move from similar academic backgrounds. I'm now strategising about how best to a) get some further insight into whether this is indeed a career that I'm committed to and cut out for; and b) put together a competitive application. Game plan would be to sit the UKCAT this summer, apply to Warwick and Newcastle for 2020 provided my score is good enough and I've built up enough experience by then to both be sure of myself and have enough to talk about at interviews; then, in the (pretty likely) scenario that I don't get a place for 2020, spend a year getting more experience, improving my UKCAT score if necessary, and studying for/sitting the GAMSAT in order to apply to Swansea and SGUL (plus Warwick and Newcastle again) for 2021 entry. (Can you tell from that combo that I don't have science A-levels?)
The key thing I need to do right now is to gain relevant work experience and first-hand insight into a clinical setting. It seems that working as an HCA would be the ideal way to do this, and that doing so in an NHS hospital would be even better. There appear to be a fairly regular crop of job adverts for Band 2 HCAs both in my local area and in London (which is commutable, though I'd consider moving closer in if I got a job there) that don't necessarily require previous experience or training. (I don't have any formal experience that's obviously relevant to HCA work).
So I'm wondering how others who've made a similar transition to GEM have found the experience of a) applying and interviewing for HCA jobs with limited relevant experience; and b) navigating the strange catch-22 of being simultaneously inexperienced in the healthcare field but also seemingly "overqualified" for HCA work in terms of (albeit unrelated) formal academic qualifications/previous jobs. How do you get across to potential employers that you're serious about the job, about learning and doing it well, and about a career in healthcare, while not telling them straight up that you're doing it to gain experience for med school applications and thus suggesting that you'll be gone in a year or so? Or have other people told interviewers/written in applications that that's their plan and subsequently been offered jobs?
I'm aware that volunteering is also a great way to develop skills and insight, but for various complex reasons, I'm unable to volunteer seriously alongside carrying on with what I'm doing right now, so would have to find a different (non-clinical-related) job to pay the bills and combine with voluntary work. Also, a lot of the volunteer opportunities I've looked at don't seem—on the surface at least—as if they'd be "hands-on" enough to fulfil Warwick's work experience requirements in particular.
Bonus questions (sorry for the long post!):
1) For anyone who made a similar move (unrelated degree/previous career, then HCA job, then GEM)—did you develop some kind of a "Plan B" for your future in case your med school applications weren't successful after trying a couple of times?
2) Any tips on getting shadowing opportunities as a grad? I'm aware that it's not strictly necessary for admissions, and that getting experience of actually caring for patients is much more important, but I'd like to get at least some experience of observing the day-to-day work of a doctor. My local NHS trust, and many of the major London hospitals that I could easily get to, have formal shadowing schemes but those are strictly limited to local sixth form students. I don't have any medics in my family or immediate social circle. Is it really a case of just cold-emailing hospitals/departments/individual consultants?
I'm an arts graduate seriously considering applying for GEM 2020 or 2021 entry. I'm aware that I'll need significant healthcare-related work experience both to be a competitive candidate at interviews and to genuinely figure out if it's indeed the right career for me. I'm at something of a crossroads in my life anyway, and am looking at applying for HCA jobs in order to rapidly gain experience while getting paid. Questions are:
1) How do I best present myself when applying for entry-level HCA jobs as someone with little-to-no related work experience but a master's degree in a completely unrelated field? Should I mention in applications/interviews that I'm hoping to apply for graduate medicine—in order to provide context for why I'm applying for these jobs as a graduate with a seemingly unrelated CV—or would that count against me (in terms of employers thinking I won't be there for long and therefore am not worth the time and effort it would take to train me and get me up to speed)?
2) I'm aware that a career change to medicine requires 100% commitment. However, I'm also well aware that GEM is very competitive; that there's no guarantee of a place even if I do everything right in terms of getting work experience and scoring highly on the UKCAT/GAMSAT; and that I'm not getting any younger. I'm therefore a bit concerned about dropping everything to become an HCA, then not getting into med school despite my best efforts, and finding myself stuck in a dead end career-wise. What's a realistic backup/Plan B for an arts graduate now working as an HCA?
If I hadn't got a place this year, I was planning to try to do some HCA work (It's definitely useful), then if I didn't get in next year I was going to look at applying to do nursing.