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What is work experience and why is it important? 

It is basically having any sort of experience in a health-related field or a direct observation of healthcare (placements in hospitals or GP). Some medical schools require you to have one or both as a requirement in the selection process, so it is important to have a look at what the medical schools you are applying to need (you can find an outline on medic portal). 
 
Medicine is a very broad field that covers many different aspects of care ranging from primary to quaternary care, and so it’s important to get a taste of what’s it like to work in the healthcare system. Overall, it will give you a good idea of what skills you need to possess and shows you what you are essentially getting yourself into. 

How to get work experience? 

If you are in sixth form, placements may be arranged for you by your school, but don’t worry if that isn’t the case. Many hospital websites have a page where you can directly apply for work experience. However, there are deadlines so make sure you send in your application by then. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to reach out to your local NHS trust or GPs by emails, letters or phone calls, as they may have opportunities they haven’t advertised and may be willing to let you observe. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get approval, some places will have restrictions like an age limit, just don’t give up trying! 
There are also many volunteering opportunities where you can work in a healthcare environment like a care home. You can find these opportunities listed on websites like do-it.org.uk, but it may also be a matter of searching like visiting your local care home or hospice. Furthermore, you may also be able to volunteer at your local hospital which will give you a very good insight on how the healthcare system runs as you will be getting a first-hand experience. 
 
Tip: Time is key when looking for work experience, make sure you apply early on so you aren’t disappointed later when positions are filled up. 
Also try to stay organised by responding promptly to emails and meeting with deadlines. 

What to get out of your time doing work experience and how to make the most of it? 

Reflect! This is the most important point you need to understand when doing work experience. It’s not just about what you saw but what you were able to learn from the experience. This could include skills you noticed were involved to make these things a success like effective teamwork, communication and empathy as well as the roles of the healthcare professionals. Try to also reflect on yourself: skills you think you can demonstrate or may need to enhance. 
During your time in the hospital don’t be afraid to ask questions to healthcare professionals that can range from why they did a certain task the way they did to why they thought medicine was the right choice for them. Furthermore, shadowing doctors the whole day may seem tedious at times so try to explore beyond the ward you were given. Ask for permission to visit other facilities like the X-Ray department or attend a theatre session. The more you do the more experience you will be able to gain, which will help you realise what medicine is all about. 
 
Tip: Keeping a notebook that outlines all the experiences you noticed throughout the day will help you when you think about your reflection which will be used in your personal statement and interview. Lastly, enjoy your time and make the most of it! 
Tagged as: Work Experience
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