Results and the Future

So you have your results (GCSE or A-Level) and you’re looking towards the future. What’s next?

A-Level

Some of you will be lucky enough to have gotten the grades you wanted to get into med school. To those people, congratulations. It’s a long and arduous journey but you will enjoy every last minute of it.

To those unfortunate enough to not get the grades. Do not despair. There are so many options for you. You can do a different degree, something which you may fall in love with that you never thought would be possible. You can take a year out, travel and work, gain some life experience before re-applying. There is no right option, nor is there a wrong option.

I was in this scenario 5 years ago, grades not good enough for medicine (before the times of applying through clearing), I went in to Biomedical Science. I loved every moment of that course, but I realised this was not the career I wanted to do. I still wanted to do medicine. I graduated and got in to graduate entry medicine (luckily and thankfully). My route is a common one, however there are some I know who have come from economics, english, history, law, dance, art and politics to name but a few.

Do not be disheartened by your results if they aren’t what you expected. Sometimes the route you didn’t expect can be the best one for you. I know, looking back, I would not want to do anything differently.

GCSE

Ok, so you’ve just finished school. The GCSEs have been made harder with a different grading (which I still can’t get my head around!). Now you’re off to college. If medicine is something you want to do you’ll have to do Biology. They normally want Chemistry or Physics as another. With Maths as the third. Do your research before picking your subjects. They’ll be wanting AAA as a minimum (generally) which is not as easy as it was at GCSE.

Don’t be worried if you’re GCSEs weren’t the best in the school. Get your A-levels and use what spare time strengthening your application. Volunteer work, shadowing, whatever you can get to increase the chances of getting your application considered by universities.

Work hard. A-levels are not like GCSEs. I found the jump between the two greater than between A-levels and Uni.

Be sure this is the career you want. If it is, spend every moment working towards it, it’ll be worth it. If not, really consider if it’s what you want to do.

Enjoy college. While only a couple of years, make use of it. It’ll be the last time you’ll be around your friends from home. Despite saying you’ll meet up over summer’s etc, this will slowly fade away until even meeting once a year will be difficult. So make the most of it while you can.

 

Best of luck in your adventures. If you have any questions, comment or direct message.

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Work Experience

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.

Shadowing

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’.

Volunteer Work

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.

Hobbies

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!

A little extra reading..

For any of you wanting to get in to the world of medicine, make sure you want it. If you’re fortunate to apply, work experience won’t be the only thing universities will be looking for.

As a suggestion, read some books and/or journals, watch the news, watch videos (Ted talks are fantastic). Some books that med schools love are those that not only look at the amazing world of medicine but also the ethical and sometimes terrible side.

Here are some of those books, all of which fantastically written.

Do No Harm – Henry Marsh

One for those of you who wish to go in to neurosurgery/surgery. Delves into the depths of some of the most difficult decisions a doctor can make.

When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

A neurosurgeon with an english literature degree who was diagnosed with an inoperable lung cancer who passed away in 2015. His book accounts his journey after diagnosis through being a patient as well as a surgeon. Paul died during the writing of the book which is perfectly concluded by his wife, Lucy.

Being Mortal – Atul Gawande

Another practising surgeon who fearlessly reveals the struggles of the profession as well as looking at its limitations and failures as live draws to a close. Atul explores the difficulty doctors often experience in dealing with death, including the anxiety of families, false hope and treatments which shorten lives in a hope to save those patients, all while that families go along with it.

The Patient Will See You Now – Eric Topol

Eric Topol looks at the modern day advances in technology and how these affect the daily lives of doctors. How the advance of smartphones can give rise to a new personal medicine to allow people to get tests and diagnoses without having to wait for a GP appointment. He looks at the difficulties such as security and the longstanding medical establishment but also envisions a new, cheaper, more accessible health care system.

When looking to apply/applying for medicine it’s important to remember the ethics and dilemmas facing medicine on a daily basis. Open your mind and you’ll achieve great things!