The one thing every medical school wants from its applicants.
Work experience can come in all shapes and sizes.I will run through some ideas for work experience and personal statement boosters to try and get your application near to the top of the pile.
The staple work experience of most undergraduate applicants. Shadowing shows that you’ve been in a clinical environment witnessing medicine first hand. Yet, personally, shadowing means nothing unless you’re using it to determine if medicine is right for you. Name dropping consultants or procedures into interviews and personal statements won’t help, if anything, it’ll just portray you as a show off. As usual, if you are putting shadowing into a personal statement make sure you reflect on it. Think back to things like ‘how did the multidisciplinary teams help to make the patient comfortable?’ and ‘what does being a doctor really entail? e.g. paperwork, multiple patients’.
Probably one of the most sought after work experience personal statement boosters there is. The longer you do it, the better it looks (depending on what you did). It shows you are willing to give up your free time, without compensation, to help others. If you’re able to clinically applied voluntary work (e.g. St John Ambulance, British Red Cross) it looks even better as you will often have patient contact and some clinical experience before even starting. As with any experience though, it’s the reflection that counts. What did you learn from the experience (other than you want to do medicine)? What other roles did you have (e.g. committee)?
Paid clinical work
I realise this is more likely for those going for graduate entry medicine or those taking a gap year. Hands on clinical work such as healthcare assistants, nursing home or even portering can help you get a real feel for the career you have in mind. In addition to this, you also get paid for it! Many healthcare providers require you to be at least 18 to work due to the type of work and insurance purposes.
General paid part/full time work
Just because something isn’t clinical doesn’t mean it’s not applicable to medicine. Many jobs require team participation, communication skills and time management, all valuable skills that are highly sought after in medicine. Working for a long time can help (even if it’s one/half a day a week) as it shows commitment. Once again it’s all about reflection. Mention roles you undertook and how this can help you in a career in healthcare. However, make sure you don’t fill up too much of your personal statement with non-relevant material. You have limited space and they do want you to show some clinical experience.
Often over-looked, hobbies are vital. If you play sports, or dance, or paint, or play musical instruments; put it down. Med schools are looking for well-rounded individuals, not just book-worms who get good grades. Make sure you can link to a career in medicine (e.g. first aider for a sports team) but is less important to do so as they know you need to unwind somehow!
Lastly, don’t rush your decision to do medicine. Get the right experience and know you want to do it. In addition, don’t leave writing your personal statement to the last minute, the best ones have thought and effort put into them. If you don’t get in first time, don’t be disheartened, you’ll have more life experience come the second application cycle. Good Luck!