Shadowing a DoctorAugust 2, 2016
Kyle Wilkinson has one of the best roles on our team: he’s tasked with the job of travelling the country (and, sometimes, the world!) to deliver the Gap Medics message to wide-eyed students at hundreds of schools, colleges and universities. We caught him on a rare day in the office to ask what it was like being ‘on the road’.
A Typical Week for Me
One day I can be in Glasgow, the next I’m in north Wales visiting Bangor before stopping off at Leeds on the way back! No day is ever the same and certainly never dull.
I probably hit at least eight or nine universities and colleges a week. On my travels, I meet up with all kinds of people: department heads, course leaders, careers advisors, tutors and, of course, lots of students! It’s always great to meet new people and see their eyes light up as I talk about the preclinical hospital placements they can experience with us. Let’s be honest: who wouldn’t want to go to a place like the Dominican Republic to learn about their future career?
Every Monday the car gets loaded with the latest Gap Medics brochures and equipment for the week ahead. Filling the car is the hardest part. Well, that and the daily struggle with the UK’s motorways. Friends have asked me how I don’t get bored being out on the road all the time. Have you ever driven through the Cotswolds? Cruised through the highlands of Scotland or seen the sun sparkle against the surface of the ocean in Torquay before? These places never get boring. The UK is full of stunning places and I get to see so many of them every day.
Presenting to people can be a bit daunting. In the morning I’m talking to 30 midwifery students in a classroom, lunch time having a meeting with a programme leader, then in the afternoon I’m standing in front of over 150 nursing students in a lecture theatre. It’s definitely not a job for everyone. I get such a buzz from seeing how happy people get at the idea of our placements or when I get a laugh from students as I explain how jealous their friends will be when they’ve checked-in on Facebook from a tropical island or drop a #SafariSelfie on Instagram.
In June I was lucky enough to travel to the HOSA leadership conference in Nashville, Tennessee. I spoke to nine thousand students across three days – thankfully I didn’t have to get up and talk to all of them at once! They had multiple break-out sessions so I got to speak with hundreds of mega keen American students at separate times, phew!
Every student at HOSA was bursting with energy. They all wanted to become the best medical professionals they could be and Gap Medics was fitting in just right. We spoke to thousands of students, all of them incredibly friendly. I’ve never heard so many variations of the American accent all in one room either!
Why I Love Meeting Students
Students are the reason I do this. Their energy, their passion for healthcare and wanting to do so much for others is infectious. Seeing them beam with delight when I talk about what they’ll see on placement with Gap Medics is the cherry on top. I was a student once and I wanted to know everything; I wanted to know where and how I could better myself. Seeing that in the next generation of medical professionals is a delight.
It’s not all 18-21-year-olds though – midwifery is popular with people of all ages! I spoke to a room of 100 students in Sheffield one day and most of them looked older than me. Seeing these students push back boundaries and make a huge life changing decision is amazing. Healthcare careers are available to everyone and that’s why we invite everyone, too.
It’s always great to be able to relate to students, engaging with them on a professional level. So…when I tell them that my wife and I are expecting a tiny Baby Wilkinson next year, they go crazy! Straight away they start offering advice and telling me where to go for extra support. Across the next few months, I’ll be visiting midwives myself, asking questions, worrying about everything my wife does and eats. Every midwifery student I meet offers a calm approach, after the initial excitement, and not only does that settle my nerves but it shows me that future parents will be in the safest hands possible.
These midwifery students, like every other student I meet, love what they’re doing and can’t wait to get into the thick of it. My good news is a taster for them and a great chance for me to ask silly questions away from the wife!
Frequently Asked Questions
When students’ hands go up after I’ve finished speaking, I can often predict what they’re going to ask. Top three questions are always:
How long are the placements?
As long as you want! The minimum is one week, although most people tend to spend two or three weeks with us.
Can I do more than one type of placement?
Yes! We’re very flexible and very keen for you to experience as much as you can while in those clinical environments. Mixing a week of nursing with a week of midwifery is very popular.
How much does it cost?
Your registration fee is £290. That secures your placement and accommodation. The total cost depends on where in the world you’d like to go and for how long. I always say our website is very open and honest about the cost of each trip.
Depending on the event I’m going to, I can also speak to parents or a mixture of parents and their children. Mums and dads normally ask me about the safety and security of our accommodation. It’s a fair question and the answer is simple: all our accommodation is owned and run by us. We have 24hour security on site. Only certified staff and students are allowed onto our sites. If you don’t have a Gap Medics security pass then you’re not getting in. Simple as that.
It’s always worth saying that at each site we have a Programme Manager that lives with all the students too. If they have any issue, big or small, they can knock on their door. This person is there for their added safety and continued support while on placement.
Want me to come and visit?
I always love speaking to teachers and lecturers who are interested in Gap Medics, and if you’re one of them, please get in touch! You can do this by emailing me on firstname.lastname@example.org/uk.
Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.