Work Experience For Medical School?! What You Actually Need To Know!

Hello hello!

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I get a lot of questions about the sort of work experience that is necessary to help build a successful medical school application. There are a variety of different ways that you can prove a commitment to medicine and science, and the development of characteristics necessary to make a good doctor. Below are a few ideas that I think could help you with this, and certainly helped with my application!

1. Hospital work: This is fairly obvious, but it is important to try and get some sort of shadowing experience in a hospital. Particularly because, when applying for a degree that can last up to 6 years, it’s important to prove to yourself, and to the universities you’re are applying to, that you understand what you are committing to. During your time in a hospital, try to get some exposure to as many different specialities as possible, so you can get some idea of the variety within medicine.

2. Volunteering: Volunteering at somewhere like an old people’s home, or a hospice, is a great way of demonstrating you possess the empathy and selflessness needed to be a good doctor. These are great places to gain experience, as you are often given a lot more responsibility, and there is more scope for long term involvement; I volunteered at a local home for two years.

3. Tutoring/mentoring: Leadership, reliability and a passion for education, are characteristics expected of a doctor, and can be displayed by taking it upon yourself to teach younger students. It’s a great way of showing your commitment to helping others, and ability to undertake responsibility, while making a little money as well!

4. Research: When applying to a university that offers an intercalated medical degree, it’s important to show a dedication to science. A great way of doing this, is to get involved with some research. You can do this by contacting professors, or researchers, at local universities, involved in areas you are interested in. I shadowed a PhD student, working in cognitive neuroscience, over one on my summer holidays, and really enjoyed the experience.

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This may seem like a long list, but do not worry if you feel like you can’t manage everything! So long as you feel that your extra-curricular activities show that you are developing the skills and characteristics that will help you be a good doctor, you’re on the right track!

The 5 Best Things About Studying Medicine

My last post was about the 5 worst things about studying medicine. In order to balance things out, I thought I ought to tell you the 5 best things … otherwise you might think I’m a bit mad for still studying here!

So to begin

  1. First and foremost, I love the nature of the work we do. I struggle to focus unless I’m genuinely interested and excited about a topic. This means that something as ever-changing and complex as medicine is perfect for me, because I will constantly be challenged, even after I graduate and begin to practice.
  2. It’s great to know you’re studying for a career with a great amount of stability. While it’s not possible to guarantee which speciality you’ll go into, or which hospital you will end up at, there is no denying that the world will always need doctors. Your degree is an invaluable asset, in this respect; something you should never take for granted.
  3. One of my favourite parts of my degree is getting to hang out with other medical students. ‘Work hard, play hard’ will become your lifelong motto, and, while medical students do have a huge workload, we more than make up for it when we finally take time off! I’ve made some of the most wonderful friends in medical school, and absolutely love the mixture of characters it attracts.
  4. This may seem a little odd, but one thing I’m incredibly grateful for is the length of my degree, and time in education. While 6 years (at least) may seem like a long time to spend in university, I think medical students are lucky to be able to leave education as some of the most prepared members of the British workforce. Given the importance of the sort of work we do, the ability to prepare so thoroughly is something I will always appreciate.
  5. One of the most unique and touching things about being a medical student, is the relationship you are able to form with your patients. This relationship can often be even more personal that a relationship a patient will have with their doctor, because, as a student, you are less intimidating, and also have more time to spend with each patient, allowing you to grow much closer. Our ability to have such special connections with our patients is something I appreciate the most about being a medical student.

So there you have it! Medical school isn’t all bad. In actuality, this is one of the most valuable life experiences I will ever have, and, despite some down-sides, I wouldn’t change it for the world.!

Let me know what you love about being a medical student by commenting below!

Medical School Interview Advice: How I Got Into Cambridge

This is a new video on some tips and tricks, that I feel helped me do well when interviewing for medical school at Cambridge University, such as:

  1. Practice, practice, practice: Interviews are very odd environments to be in, particularly after happening most of your life sat in classrooms, absorbing information. This may the first time you are asked to really debate and explain your idea s and understanding of different topics. Practising this with teachers, or other doctors, can help you formulate your own style of effectively putting across information
  2. It’s good to keep an eye on any healthcare or NHS related news, as it’s not unlikely that you may be asked about these. Bear in mind that some things may not seem specifically healthcare related, but can still be topical, e.g Brexit .

For more tips, watch the video below:

The 5 Hardest Things About Studying Medicine

  1. No rest for the wicked! As a medical student, you will have one of the densest timetables at your university. At Cambridge, while some friends may have 2-3 hours of lectures a week, you can easily have double that in day, not to mention the supervisions, reading, and essays that also need to be completed. You can often feel like you’re missing out on some of the social events, that most of your friends have time to do!
  2. When studying medicine, it’s too easy to feel guilty when taking time off; there’s always a new disease you could look up, another practical skill you could polish. When there’s a never-ending list of skills and knowledge you need to acquire, it can often feel like doing anything other than work is slacking. Creating a work-life balance is incredibly difficult mentally, even is you have set personal time aside.
  3. Medicine, while a science, can also be incredibly emotional. Often you are dealing with, not only sick (or even dying) patients, but their family and friends. Even outside of the hospital, often we may have lectures that may strike a chord, particularly if you are dealing with things in your personal life. Having to remain strong, in what may be an emotionally draining setting, requires a hell of a lot of resilience!
  4. Competition! While I love my medic friends, sometimes it can feel as if we are all competing against each other; for a better exam result, for a place on paper, or the attention of a consultant. This can sometimes make it hard to completely relax around these friends, and be open about times that you are struggling, or even about success!!
  5. The uncertainty: in the current, British, political climate, the future of the NHS is not very clear. As medical students, this uncertainty about what the future holds for us, and for our patients, can be a great concern. Attitudes of hospital staff, and those they treat, have been affected by the instability and disorganisation of the NHS, and lack of support by the government, and this can sometimes make it a difficult environment to work in.


However, do not let this put you off! There are plenty of reasons to love and appreciate medical school, and my top 5 will be revealed in my next blog post!

Is It Possible to Separate Medicine and Your Personal Life?

Medicine is weird in the sense that everything you learn is easily applicable to real life. Particularly with the modern day focus on ‘lifestyle’ diseases, a lot of what we learn is about how to advise others on living healthily and safely.  This can put medical professionals themselves under a lot of pressure. After all, how can we preach to others about the ‘right’ way to live, if we do not abide by those rules ourselves?

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I remember distinctly the first meeting I had with my Director of Studies, on my FIRST day at university. It was clearly explained that, while university is a great place to explore and experiment, as a medical student, I simply could not operate in the same parameters as the students around me. This is because, given the nature of my degree, and future career, the sort of mistakes my friends could easily move past, could, essentially, ruin my life.

Now this was fairly easy to ignore initially. The first few years of my degree were not different to any others; lectures and essays, with little contact with patients, or education on clinical medicine. Safe to say, I had a similar undergraduate experience to other students, had a lot of fun, made a lot of mistakes, and luckily never got into too much trouble.

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However, things changed once I started the clinical part of my degree. It was a little harder to have a guilt-free, alcohol-filled night, and then return to clinics on Monday, and advise others to abstain. I struggled to turn a blind eye to my friends’ cigarette or drug use, when I had endless teaching on just how damaging this was to their health. How could I preach about the benefits of exercise and healthy diet, when I was in such poor shape myself?

This is still something I struggle with. I am not perfect, and certainly never will be. I make active efforts to live my life in the healthiest way possible, but often fall short of the mark. And of course, when it come to my friends and family, sanctimonious lecturing on just how ‘unhealthy’ they are, probably wont go down very well. But is turning a blind eye, and accepting that my habits will never mirror my advice, the way forward?

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Is this something you’ve struggled with? How have you coped? Please let me in know, in the comments below!

The Importance of Humility

One thing that has become increasingly evident, in my time in medical school, is that I cannot survive this career if I continue to view myself as a self-sufficient island. When I started university, I came from a position of very rarely needing help, as I’m sure many medical students do. We’re often top of our class, used to puzzling out our problems by ourselves, and usually giving advice and help to others. While this success is useful for our confidence, and, of course, our success, it also feeds another, less positive part of our being, our ego. And as my mother always says, ‘Pride comes before a fall’.

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This was lesson I learned he hard way when I started university. From almost my first day at Cambridge, my journey good only be described as one thing; a struggle. Even now, in my final year, six of six, this is the still the most apt way to describe my time here. However, this is not unique. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a medical student who will describe their time at university as ‘easy’. Unfortunately, you may need to press quite hard for this information; despite medical students often struggling with the stress and pressure of their degree, we can often still remain tight lipped about how hard we find things.

However, keeping silent about our struggles can be dangerous, for us and for out patients. I’ve discussed a little before about why it’s so important, for our mental health and well being, to be open when we find things difficult. But it’s almost more important to be honest about when we feel unsure about things relating to our patients. While admitting that you aren’t’ sure about a patient’s diagnosis, or management, may hurt your ego, attempting to save your pride can be fatal. This is why humility, and the ability to ask for help, are some the most important characteristics a doctor can have.

Even now, I still have to fight the desire to smile and nod numbly, when a doctor mentions a disease or drug I’ve never heard of. But getting used to saying ‘Actually, I don’t know’ is good for me, and great for my patients.

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Let me know if this is something you’ve struggled with, or if you have any tips you have for getting over it.

Outfit:

Jacket – Primark (Similar)

Turtle-neck – Zara (Similar)

Check trousers- Mango (Sold Out)

Bag – Chanel

Trainers – Adidas

 

Promises To Myself, For My Final Year Of Medicine


This Monday I start my final year of medicine. My last year of SIX. At the beginning of each year I like to set aside some time to think about my goals for the months ahead, and this is all the more important as I enter the final stage of my education.

Firstly, my focus is going to be on my mental health. Medicine has always, and will always, be stressful, and it’s important that I really learn to deal with that, before I leave the safe space that is Cambridge, and enter the scary reality of the NHS.

I also desperately need to focus on my physical health and fitness. It’s very easy to use my workload and many commitments as an excuse for not getting to the gym, or eating out instead of making a healthy meal, and things will only get worse when my work hours increase. It’s important for me to create a routine where health and fitness are a steady part of my routine, before my foundation year starts.

However, my primary focus is going to be on ensuring that I am the best junior doctor I can be. Quite frankly, the idea of being let loose in a hospital is terrifying. I still don’t feel ready to diagnose and treat patients on my own, and, in reality, I wont be alone; I’ll always be working as part of team. But, I want to make sure that I’m an asset, as opposed to dead weight. I’m going to target most of my energy towards improving my clinical knowledge and reasoning, so I can best serve my patients when I FINALLY get that title.


What are your goals and targets for the upcoming academic year?