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Student Experience Of Work Placements

Listen to three students describe their work experience.
Before applying to university to study medicine, I undertook different forms of work experience to understand what life as a doctor is like and also what it’s like to study medicine at university. The fourth year of secondary school I went and spent a week in a care home. It wasn’t necessarily what most people consider medical work experience because it was a nursing-based care home with no doctors, but it was really interesting to see the level of care and consideration over that one week. My first experience in a clinical setting was in a local hospice. I was volunteering, washing dishes and I served cups of tea to the patients and their families during visiting times.
And that was my first insight into a clinical setting. I could see nurses and doctors working together. A distant relative, I think it’s like my second cousin once removed, who I’ve never met, I emailed her because she was an obstetrician and gynaecologist and a I was kind of at a loose end trying to email people I didn’t know, so I e-mailed her. But I did two weeks with her shadowing her NHS work down in London as an obstetrician and gynaecologist. And then the following year, my school helped me organise work experience through NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, which I did which just so happened to be with another obstetrician and gynaecologist, and that was again for two weeks.
It’s often overlooked because people think work experience placements are expected, and some universities do in fact expect them, how difficult it can be to organise them. You’re possibly 16, possibly even 15 depending on what age you are when you try it’s incredibly daunting, it’s something you can overcome, but it’s daunting enough having to organise that. For example, trying to contact with a hospital doctor. If you have no experience in hospitals, if your family has no experience in hospitals except being a patient, if you have no connections, it’s very, very difficult. My local GP practise offered me some experience working with their GP. I was sitting, shadowing them for a couple of days and also did some home visits with them.
It was quite difficult at first to gain experience like this. A lot of GP practises won’t allow you to join them because of confidentiality problems if you live nearby and may know some of the patients. But I was lucky and they were willing to accept me. The care home placement was organised by my school that has a week of work experience. We really didn’t have very many options. I know some schools, or like you organise it themselves, some schools have a list, and that was– mine was from this list. My GP placement was organised, as strange as it might sound, just by sending letters out to every GP surgery in the nearby area that wasn’t my own.
It is difficult to get a placement in your own and the issues of confidentiality is very is actually very important. So I learned a decent amount about that by not applying to my own. But I just sent out to anyone in the area and was lucky that one GP surgery said yes. But a lot of them were very reluctant, so importantly, if you’re going to do that, you need to cast your net wide I had a work experience placement in general practise. That was only for an afternoon, but you can get a lot from even just one afternoon and I think that’s often very much ignored.
My third work experience placement was in the Royal and it was a week in rheumatology. The university I was applying to was running a course for students from non-traditional backgrounds for applying to medicine, and this was a week long event on the campus. It was great because you could learn about what it’s like to be on campus and be familiar with the surroundings, talk to real life medical students who could tell you what it was like and how to prepare and also get an insight from practicing doctors about a range of specialties. Some of them appealed more to me than others. And it was great to just confirm that that’s what I wanted to do.
The main thing I got out of my experience at the GP practise was seeing the detective like work of the GP, which I quite aspire to and also seeing the interaction between not just your doctors but all the other people who make a health centre work. It might just sway you the other way and you decide that actually that’s definitely not for me, and that’s such a useful thing to find out before you go into university. I think that when people consider work experience placements, especially for applying to medicine, they consider it must be a hospital and it must be a GP. People want to see the skills you have, the mind set you have.
I was working at the checkout talking with people from many different backgrounds. I saw people who were poor and struggling to cope. I learned a bit about their life through this chat. I learned a bit about how to empathise with them. I learned the best way to communicate. I think any actual work, it didn’t have to be voluntary it doesn’t have to be work experience, any actual work in working with the public is useful because you build up your communication skills with the public, you build up your confidence, and you find out if you like working with the public in general.
I don’t think work experience should be compulsory because many students may find it very difficult to gain a vast amount of clinical experience. Many times experience on a Saturday job can be very useful. I was unsuccessful in getting the school organised trip to the hospital for work experience, so I ended up in a garden centre. And that was hard work, and it taught me a lot about working in teams. What’s important? Make sure you have an insight into what life is like as a doctor and it also gives you an opportunity to ask questions about the career path and you learn how the doctor works within a team, and how teamwork’s kind of– at the crux of patient care.
It kind of lets you learn a bit about what you prefer as well, then just given an insight into what the day to day life of x doctor is or x specialty, kind of thing So that was quite useful. Well, work experience is useful. Not all universities require it and they’re more interested often in the other things you can talk about as well, but work experience is a way in which you can talk about the skills and the other things that you’ve learned and it’s important in that regard.

Listen to three students describe their work experience. Your experience might be quite different but perhaps you will be inspired to explore other possibilites.

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