Shadowing a DoctorOctober 17, 2014
Are you relying solely on your grades for that all-important offer to study medicine? The reality is, you wouldn’t apply to a medical school that required unrealistic entry grades that were beyond your ability. With that said, it is fair to say that yes, your grades matter but admissions tutors will be looking for other attributes in whittling down their mountain of applicants.
When thinking ahead to your application for medical school, consider some of the following points and what you can do to address them between now and then.
These factors will strengthen your application and give it the weight and significance it needs to stand out.
Work experience in general, medical or not, can help you to gain skills that will be important in studying medicine and working in the medical field.
Details of any work experience you have had and your role in the organisation may well be more relevant than you think. Can you demonstrate use of communication skills? Communication is vitally important in the medical profession. The ability to interact effectively with patients and other professionals is key to a patient’s health.
Again, teamwork is a necessary skill linked closely to communication. Patients may need medical attention from a number of different professionals over the course of their care and you must be able to work together and communicate about patient needs and treatments efficiently.
An ability to take charge and show leadership qualities will also work in your favour. A medical profession will more often than not require you to take daily decisive action.
Don’t dismiss part time retail work or similar as unimportant. Think about the transferrable skills you have acquired and how you can apply these to a career in medicine. If you have worked in a healthcare setting, don’t simply talk about what you have seen, talk about the skills you have gained, reflecting on your experiences and what they have taught you about the daily reality of the medical profession.
Volunteering and medical placements
It is generally expected that in applying for medical school today, you should have had some form of medical exposure. Admissions tutors want to see evidence that you understand what is necessary and that you have an awareness of the level of commitment required in pursuing a career in healthcare.
There are numerous opportunities available to you that will demonstrate your commitment to a career in medicine and give you invaluable exposure.
- Look into shadowing or volunteering opportunities at your local hospital, they may be more appreciative of a helping hand than you think!
- Volunteering in a care home can be extremely gratifying as well as giving you the opportunity to be close to professionals, observing and asking questions. It will also be a great way to demonstrate that you have the care and compassion needed to pursue a career in medicine.
- Overseas placement opportunities will give you a medical perspective you won’t get anywhere else. You will gain an appreciation for the healthcare available in the UK and witness real dedication from doctors and nurses alike that have very little resources available to them. What’s more, an overseas placement with Gap Medics will also qualify you for the ASDAN Universities Award, which recognises students that have been involved in experiential learning.
When talking about these experiences in your application, don’t simply list what you witnessed in these environments, talk about what you learned and how it affected you and your outlook.
As emphasised earlier, your ability to recognise the value of your work and volunteering experiences is what will make you stand out. It is all good and well working and volunteering, but an inability to demonstrate how this has benefitted you will weaken the value of your experiences.
Extracurricular talents and interests
What makes you unique from other applicants that have obtained the necessary grades and have also had work experience and medical exposure? Tell admissions tutors a little about yourself and your interests outside of medicine. They are looking for candidates that will take to all aspects of university life, as this will reduce the likelihood of you dropping out early in your course. If you have a striking or unusual hobby, don’t be afraid to share as this could well make them remember you!
Commitment to achieving goals
Studying at medical school is in no way a walk in the park. It takes commitment and drive to succeed. When applying, think about times when you have really strived to achieve a goal and consider whether this is worth including. Medical schools want to be sure that applicants can handle the pressures that come with a medical degree so it could benefit you to talk about a particular difficult achievement – one that is medically related would be even more of a bonus!
Whilst this is not commonly required in applying to medical school, it will certainly help in giving your application the stand out you are hoping to achieve. Many companies and universities conduct regular medical research and trials and there is no harm in offering to help them out in organising these in any small way you can.
Under a broader umbrella of research, you should be clued up with recent medical related news. You may have read specific books or journals that you found particularly interesting. If these have influenced you on a large scale it is definitely a good thing to mention in terms of what you learned or how it has altered your perspective on a certain topic.