Work experience – everyone ‘s heard of it, everyone wants it and if, like me, you’re thinking of pursuing a career in medicine then you definitely need it, but how do you find work experience and once you have, how can you make the most out of it?
Now you may be one of the lucky ones whose family tree reads like a who’s who of medical professionals so you just ring up uncle Robert and ‘Bob’s your uncle’ you’ve got yourself a medical-related work experience. If you are not quite so blessed, then you have to be a little more savvy. This was certainly the case for me, an oddball scientist in a family of English-lovers. The best way to do this is to think outside the box.
One way is to think outside the geographical box and apply for volunteer-work abroad, there are many different volunteer schemes and most operate with ‘the more the merrier’ attitude, giving you a good chance of getting onto it. I applied to volunteer with the Israeli ambulance service and with a stroke of luck I got onto the programme.
This was a great experience – hands-on, high-pressured and medical-related teamwork. Now to the part about making the most of your work experience… It’s not enough just to muck-in. While obviously this is important, you also need to think, with everything you do, how it strengthens your passion for medicine and what you are gaining from it that would make you a better doctor.
I found that the cases that had the biggest effect on me and I got the most out of weren’t necessarily the most dramatic ones. One day the ambulance I was on got called to a lady who had had a stroke. She was alert and breathing regularly but one side of her body was paralysed and she couldn’t communicate properly as a result. There was fear and confusion in her eyes. I took the lady by the hand and told her that’d she would be looked after. Just this one act of reassurance was enough to make her visibly relax. All I did that journey was stroke an old woman’s hand and yet I felt like I made a difference. This case taught me the importance of patient care – it is not enough to simply treat a patient but you must treat them with respect.
This is just one example of something I took from my volunteering but it addresses the point that it is more important what you learn while doing work experience than what you actually do for work experience.
Another way to think outside the box is to think outside the medical box. I know what you’re thinking, I must be crazy! You only read this because you thought it would help you find medical work experience, however, you can relate other work back to medicine. It all comes back to the experience being what you make of it. You could gain experience in a world renowned hospital but if all you did that week was stroke doctors’ egos then you won’t have learnt anything. On the other hand, by working in a shop you can gain experience of talking to people, working in a team and thinking on your feet. These are all important factors of being a doctor.
Hopefully, now you’ll realise that the world of work experience isn’t as dismal as all that, in fact there are many opportunities out there. Maybe you’ll have a Stroke of genius and gain some eye-opening work experience.