Why get hospital work experience?


How Important Is Medical Work Experience?

Gaining work experience is important for potential medical students as it demonstrates that you have awareness of what working in the health service is really like.  As well as demonstrating your enthusiasm for your career choice, they are key skills which universities will be looking for in your UCAS form.

It will also give you a good opportunity to develop your communication skills and experience working with a huge range of people from all sorts of different backgrounds. 

The placement should help you to:

  • Support your university application
  • Help you decide whether you a career in healthcare is right for you
  • Gain a realistic awareness of the everyday realities of life in the health service
  • Acquire knowledge about your own abilities and limitations

Support your University Application

University Interview Material

Interviews relating to healthcare are all about demonstrating just how much you want to enter the profession, and how determined you are to succeed. At this stage it's less about your academic achievements but more about your motivations for studying medicine and demonstrating this with your experiences of being in a clinical environment. 

University Personal Statements

Many students use hospital shadowing projects as the perfect material to use in their personal statements and applications for medicine, nursing, midwifery and dentistry. It demonstrates that you are so passionate about a career in healthcare that you chose to volunteer your free time working in a hospital, and learning about healthcare is the best way to show any university how serious you are about the profession. 

International Work Experience

It goes without saying that there are numerous benefits to gaining work experience, as this provides scope for your continued growth and development. Becoming involved in experience in another country can be even more valuable, as it demonstrates you have courage and make bold decisions. You will find yourself out of your normal comfort zone and become exposed to different ways of working and cultures.

Skills you’ll learn from work experience abroad:

Problem-solving skills

As well as learning about the local culture, including the language, customs and traditions, you will meet with people from all over the world. Working with diverse people is a key soft skill in the modern business world.

Multicultural engagement

When faced with a problem abroad, an individual must use their own initiative and employ problem-solving skills on their own. This requires flexibility and creativity, key skills admissions tutors look for in a candidate.


Students who make the most of opportunities to study in a new place strengthen their ability to adapt. They work out how to settle in, acclimatize and adjust to their new environment. 

Global awareness

Learning about the art, cuisine and history of another culture develops your understanding of others; something vital to working and succeeding in the global business world

How Else Can You Use Your Work Experience?

Your work experience is not just useful for university applications – you will find throughout your career there are plenty of ways your time on placement can help you. 

  • Curriculum Vitae - you will be able to speak about your medical shadowing on your CV, particularly if you are applying for a health related part-time job such as medical scribing or a lab assistant.
  • Showcase your skills - even if you’re applying for a job that seems unrelated to healthcare, you may find that your placement has helped you develop skills such as teamwork, analytical thinking and empathy that could contribute to your success.

How to use your medical work experience


Using your medical work experience 

You will have spent the last 2 or 3 years fighting to gain work experience in a wide range of settings. Now is the time to make sure you mention your best parts and what you learnt. You will have heard "quality over quantity" a million times, this even more true in your interview. You wont have time to mention your all your work experience so we need to find your best 2 or 3 and be VERY comfortable talking about them.

Look over your notes and find your best examples. What you are looking for in a good example are times when you have evidence of someone (not always a doctor) demonstrating skills that you need as a doctor. You are looking for examples of excellent:

  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Empathy
  • Knowledge
  • Respect
  • Professional
  • Ability to listen

Using the list find an example where you can demonstrate clearly how the person you observed/helped used the skill(s). It's important you write these answers out in a structured way, so use the PEE method:

1.     Point - Make your point about the skill you are talking about.

2.     Evidence - Provide clear and well researched evidence of the person using the skill.

3.     Explain - Link the evidence to back to the skill and tell the interviewer what you learnt from this and how this has helped you on your journey to wanting to study medicine.


Question - "Can you tell me about an interesting case you observed whilst on work experience?"

Answer -

1.     Point - "Of course. I was volunteering at a local dementia home last summer and saw the gradual deterioration in one patient's condition. The visiting doctor had arrived whilst the patients family were present. The family were very concerned and emotions were running quite high. I watched at the doctor demonstrated an impressive range of communication and empathy whilst examining the patient.

2.     Evidence -  I watched as the doctor addressed both the patient and the patients family. He noticed they were upset and provided an explanation as to the examination he was about to undertake. This calmed the family down and allowed him to focus on the patient. The doctor took a collateral history, spoke to the nursing staff and family. It was amazing to see a doctor control the situation using communication whilst gathering information from several sources. After the examination the doctor explained everything in small chunks to the family and allowed time for questions.

3.     Explain - As the doctor was assessing a patient with dementia it was impressive to see the communication skill used to collect information from a multi-disciplinary team to provide the best care for the patient. By acknowledging the family, providing information in small chunks and allowing time for questions also demonstrated empathy for the patient and their family. It was a real learning experience watching the doctor work and its something I wish to emulate in my medical career."



The hardest interview question to answer


Dealing with the "Tell us about yourself" Question...

It’s not even a question. It’s a request, and in the opening moments of your medical school interview, it may sound more like a hostile command. But it is perhaps one of the most common ways in which your medical school interviewers may invite you to join in conversation with them. How would you respond to this non-question question? It doesn’t seem easy, as I’m sure you’re well aware. Because it’s so open-ended, we tend to hem-and-haw and sputter out the first thing that comes to mind, and our response usually starts with, “Well, I was born in…”  Ugh!  No!  You’re missing the point of the interviewers’ request. They don’t care where, when, or how you were born; or where you lived until you were seven; or that you currently own a hamster.

What are medical school interviewers looking for?

What is the point, then, of this non-question question that so often gets us out of sorts? Well, that’s actually sort of the point:  they want to see how you respond to an unstructured situation.  Rambling on, creating one big messy non sequitur, or – worst of all – asking of your interviewers, “What do you want to know?” all point to the same problem:  a lack of both forethought and reflection.  Both are essential for being prepared to effectively manage unstructured or ambiguous situations. You mistake their intention if you believe that they really only want to get to know you personally. Sure, this is an opportunity to share personal information (more in a moment on what that means); but what you opt to share in response to the invitation reveals as much – if not more – about you as the actual details of your response. Let me provide an example, but one that is so extreme, I’m guaranteeing you’ll get my point.  Saying, “Well, I love to get raging drunk every night.” reveals something about you. And actually deciding that it would be appropriate to say, “Well, I love to get raging drunk every night.” as your opening line in a medical school interview also says something – far worse – about you.

Medical school interviewers rely on “So tell me about yourself.” because it is unstructured and open ended, and they know that how you respond will reveal not just some of your life details (no matter how banal or interesting) but also some of your character and values. Give some forethought to your response by reflecting on the personal qualities you possess that are most appropriate to share with your medical school interviewers.

Advice for Your Medical School Interview:

1. Share relevant information

Your medical school interview is a job interview; it’s not a first date.  Make sure the information you share is relevant to the primary goal of the interview: to determine whether you and that medical school are a good fit.

2.  Keep your response short and to the point

This is only the opening moment of the interview.  It should only take around two minutes to answer this question.  Like a good movie preview or a well written prologue, your response should capture your interviewers’ attention, draw them in, and get them excited to hear more from you.

3.  Take control of the interview conversation

Share information relevant to topics that your interviewers will be compelled to return to later (because you’ve given them a hint of something interesting about you that they just can’t wait to know more about).

4.  Practice telling your stories before your interviews

Remember that the interview is a continuation of a conversation that began months earlier with the primary application, the personal statement, the secondary application essays, and the letters of recommendation.  Of course depending on whether your interview is based on an “open” or “closed” file, your interviewers will already know a lot , very little, or nothing at all about you.  Don’t simply rehash your resume, but do highlight a few accomplishments or qualities and illustrate them with a couple of short memorable stories.  People love stories, but only if they’re told well, so practice telling your stories before your interviews.

You’re going to be faced with this question.  Don’t fear it!  Look forward to it, and be prepared.

Source: www.kaptest.com/mcat


Making the most of your shadowing placement


Getting ready for your first few days on the wards? We've written some handy tips below to ensure you make the most of your shadowing placement. 

1. Introductions

It's common courtesy to introduce yourself to your doctor and their patients, first impressions are everything! If you're shadowing abroad then remember a couple of greetings in the local language goes a long way.


2. Be Professional

Don't forget the obvious considerations that apply during your clinical placement, such as dressing appropriately, being punctual and being professional at all times. It will also stand you in good stead to check any learning objectives before you arrive, so that you can be clear what is expected of you during the placement and what you should aim to achieve.


3. Take Notes

During your week on placement you're going to witness a lot of new things, including procedures and consultations. It's important that you draw back to this on during your medical school interview. Taking notes is the best way to ensure that you don't forget any important information. 

Note taking provides you will a useful record of information given to you and can help recall information later on. If we look at cognitive load theory, there is only so much information that you can hold in your working memory at any one time and only some of that information will go into your long term memory. Therefore, note taking can help you write down all of the information which you might not be able to digest at that moment in time, but it is there for when you need it. Furthermore, by selecting certain information to note down, you are focusing your attention on what you need to remember. 

Strategies for good note taking: 

  • Think before you write
  • Keep notes brief and organised
  • Write phrases, not sentences
  • Link your points

4. Any questions?

Your shadowing placement is a unique learning opportunity.  It can be revealing to ask slightly more direct questions – such as what they wish they had known when they started, or what the best and worst parts of the job are. You may find it prompts them to give you a heads up about any pitfalls or odd consultant preferences you may inadvertently fall foul of. Furthermore, during consultations remember to wait until the doctor has finished speaking to the patient. 


5. Expect the Unexpected

No two days are ever the same on the ward. No two patients have exactly the same need. Each day brings chances to learn new skills and gain a wealth of knowledge, professional and interpersonal qualities. Remember to embrace the unexpected before you start, you will see some things you never anticipated.




Getting Into University: 4 Ways Students Should Spend Their Free Time


If you're applying for a career in healthcare you need to remember that your extracurriculars can set you apart from the other applicants the way numbers and scores cannot. In fact, according to the Princeton Review students who are productively engaged during the their time off school have an advantage during the medical school application process. Why's this? Well, involvement in extracurricular activities rounds out your application and portrays qualities such as leadership, dedication, and collaboration. It is easy to declare that you wish to help people as a doctor, midwife, dentist or nurse on your application, but backing it up it through dedication of your time and energy does much more to reassure a university admissions committee. 

In this article, we'll go through four ways in which you can spend your time productively in order to strengthen your medical school applications (and no, watching Grey’s Anatomy re-runs is not on the list).

1. Get Medical Work Experience

 A key factor in any med school application (besides academic requirements) is the amount and quality of clinical experience an applicant has. Most students gain clinical experience by volunteering in hospitals or shadowing physicians. Your clinical experience will give you an accurate and in-depth insight into life of a healthcare professional as you will:

  • Develop a deep understanding of the role of a doctor, midwife, nurse or dentist.
  • Understand the different roles in a hospital and how they work together in a multi-disciplinary team
  • Acquire an understanding of how interdepartmental coordination works in the treatment of a patient

Acquiring clinical experience is very competitive due to limited spaces available so its working checking out certain companies such as Medical Projects, that specialise in providing pre-medical, dentistry, midwifery and nursing courses.

2. Travel Abroad

Not only is traveling abroad fun, it is also an impressive quality in the eyes of admissions officers and it allows you to gain clinical, volunteer and language experience simultaneously. Becoming involved in experience in another country demonstrates you have courage, adaptability, and enhanced global awareness. You will find yourself out of your normal comfort zone and become exposed to different ways of working and cultures.

3. Volunteer

For those pursuing a career in medicine, midwifery, nursing or dentistry it is common knowledge that your portfolio and application should include volunteer work directly related to the field of study or career field. Many med schools have stated that it is imperative that the admitted student has several months’ worth of volunteer experience in their medical field, for it “demonstrates a consistent ongoing patter of passion for medicine.” There are many opportunities where a young, ambitious pre-med student can volunteer. Clinical experience is a plus! Working and volunteering at clinics and hospitals, shadowing physicians and even extending services to labs that need assistance really adds to your application and your story. 

4.Pick Up A New Hobby And Stick To It

A common mistake that candidates make during their application is to leave out experiences that don’t directly pertain to medicine. These extra-cirriciular activities still help shape the student’s character and interests. Experiences such as athletics, musical talents, and hobbies allow small windows into an applicant’s life and demonstrate a healthy sense of balance.

Extracurricular activities provide opportunity to develop interpersonal skills that are vital to being a good doctor. Qualities such as public speaking, communication and empathy are not learned from textbooks, they are learned from interacting with real people in real situations. An applicant who has dedicated years to one endeavor with true enthusiasm will catch the eye of admissions committees across the nation, much more so than an applicant who has only tried to follow a formula by becoming only marginally involved in multiple activities. Being passionate about one extracurricular activity demonstrates commitment and responsibility, which translate perfectly over into the field of medicine. That passion that you possess and express is how you will stand out on your application, during your interviews, and throughout medical school. So pick up a new hobby this summer and stick to it. 

School holidays often leave ambitious students baffled about how to spend their time. But, as you can see, there are a lot of ways you can spend it that doesn’t involve being quarantined in a classroom or with your nose shoved in a book! Research these opportunities and figure out which is the best option to fit your schedule. I know that some students are in a position where they have to take whatever positions they can get, but if you have the means and opportunities to participate and do what you love it makes the experience so much better!


What to expect at your medical school interview (Part 2)


Interviews can be stressful for some students. That’s a fact! But you should feel great about yourself having reached this stage. Your medical school interview is an opportunity for you to really highlight your key personal attributes on top of your academic qualifications. It is certainly not a test, but instead a great way to show care all your experiences to the admissions team.


Every medical school has its own interview procedure so it’s advisable to read up on the precise details for the one you are attending. No doubt there will be an information pack sent to you before the interview day, but it would be good practice to have a look on their website to get a feel for the medical school and the degree course. Whilst the interview is not a test, it is always useful to prepare a few short answers to possible questions so that you feel relaxed and comfortable on the day. Of course, we can never predict every possible question, but it is always a good idea to come prepared as this will settle your nerves and let you develop your confidence.

Real questions

Here is a list of some real questions students have been asked in their medical school interview:

1.     What makes you want to become a doctor?

2.     What qualities do you think patients appreciate in a doctor?

3.     What qualities do you think colleagues appreciate in a doctor?

4.     What do you understand by the term medical research?

5.     What are the benefits and limitations of medical research?

6.     Describe some medical research that you have read about or seen on the news.

7.     What qualities do you think are essential for a doctor to have?

8.     Discuss one of two of these qualities that you already have.

9.     What do you think you will find most challenging about a career in medicine?

10.  What does lifelong learning mean to you?

11.  Tell us more about your work experience (or voluntary work).

12.  What did you learn about yourself from your these experiences?

13.  How do you deal with stress and heavy workloads?

14.  How do you feel about working in a team?

15.  Describe a situation where you were a team member.

Current health story

Some medical schools will provide you with a recent health related news item before the interview and ask you to be prepared to discuss it on the day. In this case, it would be wise to do a little background research into this item and think of the possible question you might be asked. For example, what is the importance of this research? How will this change our understanding? However, not all medical schools will provide such an article, so instead it would be beneficial for you to become familiar with something recently in the news that is health related. It doesn’t matter too much about the topic, as long as you are prepared to discuss it and answer some questions. Of course, it is likely that the first question will be about why you chose that particular story!