Shadowing a DoctorFebruary 8, 2012
Work placements are essential for all medical students. Not only do they provide invaluable experience, but also they are an effective way of making your application to medical school shine. Most medical schools expect a potential student to have conducted some form of work placement, as work placements offer the chance to learn new skills, develop contacts and experience medicine hands on. However, whether you are taking a placement at home or travelling overseas to work, it is important to make sure you are getting the most out of the experience and maximize the time you have available.
Preparing for a work placement can help you ensure you are getting the most rewarding experience possible. Research the place where you will be working, and if you know somebody that has already had a work placement there, ask about his or her experiences to give you an idea of what to expect. It is important you understand where it is you will be going and what you will be doing whilst there. Normally, somebody on staff will be assigned to look after you, so speak to them before you arrive and ask what is expected of you. Establish your aims and any goals you want to achieve whilst on placement and explain these to your supervisor or organizer so you both know what it is you want out of the experience.
Starting your placement
The best way to learn anything is to speak to people who do the job. People get into medicine form all sorts of backgrounds and face all sorts of challenges in their day-to-day work. By speaking to people and asking questions, you can learn some of the numerous challenges you may face in your career. It is also worthwhile getting involved in discussions around the workplace. Your input may be valuable so don’t be afraid to speak up as you may have something to offer.
It is also important to keep busy during your placement. Sometimes, when other people are busy, somebody on work placement can be left with little to do. At times like this, it is best to make yourself busy. Ask if there is anything that needs doing, in most hospitals and clinics there is always something, even if it is just helping somebody turn down a bed or clean up a ward. It’s always a good idea to keep a written log of your experiences too as it is all too easy to forget the myriad of different tasks and challenges that you may face on a placement.
Remember it’s not all work, work, work
Whether on a placement at home or working overseas, socializing with people you work with is a great way of learning about the job and building up new friends and contacts. If you are lucky enough to work overseas, it is also important to make the most of the opportunity to get out and see the location. Make sure you spend time relaxing and soaking up the local culture, as an overseas work placement can provide more than just work-based experiences.