What is work experience?
When applying to medical school, it is important to demonstrate that you have an understanding of what it means to work in medicine, which is normally achieved through undertaking work experience. This is normally a temporary or long-term placement or employment in a healthcare setting, such as a community surgery or a hospital ward. The purpose of work experience is to provide individual insight into the roles of healthcare professionals, the structure and function of healthcare services and teams, and the wider issues surrounding medical practice and the NHS. This allows potential medical school applicants more informed decisions about whether they want to apply to study medicine or not. Importantly, work experience gives applicants an opportunity to assess themselves and see if they have the skills and qualities that make them suited for a career as a doctor.
Medicine is a physically and emotionally-demanding career, and it is important that prospective medical students understand what they’re potentially signing up for when applying to medical school.
What is reflection?
Just doing work experience is not enough; the best applicants to medical school are not the ones with the largest amounts of work experience to describe. Using these experiences to best support your application requires to critically analyse them in a process called reflection.
Reflecting means looking at an experience and asking questions; for example, why did that happen? Did that go well or badly? What were the factors that affected what happened? If this were to happen again, would I approach the situation differently? What are the wider implications / lessons to be learnt from this consultation? Importantly, reflection is a way of finding out how a particular experience has changed your perception of how things work. It is also a way of finding out about yourself, including your skills and qualities, and what you would want from your future career.
Reflection doesn’t stop once you’ve been accepted into medical school; students and doctors and continually required to reflect on their practice to recognise goals for their own development.
Where can you do relevant work experience?
Work experience in any healthcare setting would be relevant and valuable to applying to medical school, providing it is sufficient enough for you to properly reflect and learn from it. Commonly, people seek work experience in primary care settings, such as general practice or pharmacy. Work in high-level care environments such as hospitals or hospices provide equally rewarding but very different experiences of medicine and the NHS.
Relevant work experience does not just include that undertaken in a healthcare environment; experience in other areas can be just as appropriate and valuable. For example, working in a nursery or in customer service can help you demonstrate that you have some of the important skills or qualities that would help you succeed as a doctor.
How can I organise work experience?
Work experience can be difficult to acquire, especially for younger applicants to medical school. This might be due to the limited availability of work experience placements, the common prerequisite of healthcare experience and minimum age requirements for commencing placements. As such, applicants that have attempted to organise work experience but have failed are often at a disadvantage when applying to UK medical schools, which have a notoriously competitive application process.
There is no central system for applying for work experience in the NHS. The best way to organise work experience is to directly approach the organisation you want to be placed with. For example, NHS trusts often have their own voluntary services departments that organise work experience placements within hospitals or outpatient settings.
What is the aim of this course?
This is a virtual work experience tool designed to provide some of the most important points you might have learnt in real-world work experience about being a doctor in the NHS. Vitally, the course also gives you opportunity to become familiar with reflecting on your experiences in order to make them as valuable to you as possible.
The course follows two patients through their journey in the NHS with different clinical presentations. These are explored through a series of different clinical ‘scenarios’ in various healthcare settings, such as a GP surgery or a hospital ward. These are common clinical situations you might have encountered in real work experience that highlight important points related to being a doctor, such as skills and qualities. It is not designed to increase your understanding of science and medical theory.
This is a virtual work experience tool and is not designed to completely replace experience completed in the real world, but to provide an insight into medicine and being a doctor where you have had no experience so far. This tool is also appropriate to supplement work experience already achieved or touch aspects that you may not have achieved through your existing work experience. As such, this virtual work experience tool will help you make an informed decision of whether applying to medical school is right for you.
Objectives of this course:
- Understand the organisation of the NHS in terms of primary, secondary and tertiary care
- Recognise the ways in which patients can access healthcare and how and why patients move through different services in the NHS
- Become familiar with reflecting on work experience
- Develop and understanding of the roles of different types of doctor, including GPs, consultants and foundation doctors
- Appreciate the ways that a doctor and other HCPs can manage patients
- Consider the typical training pathways and timelines in common branches of medicine
- Identify the most important skills and qualities that doctors should possess and be developing throughout their career, and give examples of why these are so important
- Consider the biggest present and future challenges faced by the NHS
- Stimulate thinking into the wider considerations surrounding modern medicine, including politics, law and ethics
What will you be provided with on completion?
- Certificate of completion of the virtual work experience course
- Transcript of reflective work
- Something interesting to talk about in personal statements and interviews!
Who are the creators of the course?