Work Experience

Finding work experience in a pandemic:

Written by Alisha Kassam, 02/11/2020

Finding work experience opportunities has always been a difficult hurdle for medical students to overcome. After weeks of sending cold emails, it is often a last minute strike of luck that allows you to get that vital hospital experience.

But if even medical students have been denied full access to wards during the Covid-19 pandemic, what is the best way for you as a school student to find work experience?

Unfortunately, the answer, as with most things this year is online. Virtual work experiences are not very common. However, the two online at the time of writing are as follows:

The Brighton and Sussex Virtual Medicine Experience:

Observe GP:

While the pandemic has led to the shutdown of many student work experience schemes, it has opened up the opportunity for a large plethora of volunteering.

The skills that can often be acquired from volunteering can equal or often trump those that would have been gained or observed during work experience. Whether it be volunteering to call the elderly, offering to buy shopping for some isolating neighbours or volunteering for the NHS, these experiences if reflected on well can definitely compensate for your lack of work experience.

If 2020 has taught us anything it is to get creative! You could even reflect on patient experiences you have seen on YouTube or listen to a podcast or watch a documentary where you can describe a situation where you have seen doctors display key skills. Remember, it is important to not just reflect on the skills doctors have gained but also how you have then gone on to develop that skill and how you hope that will aid you as a medical student.

For example, a personal statement could say:

‘While watching a documentary focussing on the life of a doctor in the Emergency Ward, I observed how a consultant maintained a calm demeanour and gave out clear instructions to his team during a severe road traffic accident case.

In a bid to emulate XXXX skills, I have done XXXX.

The last suggestion I have is to try and get a more accurate reflection of medicine through online courses. These courses often explore the scientific background of a certain disease and then go on to explore how the disease impacts patients. Plus, the majority or online courses are free so what is not to love?

I hope these ideas help! Remember, work experience virtual or not has always been about what you have gained as opposed to what you have seen or a list of what you have done. In the current climate, medical schools will definitely understand the lack of opportunities available but will probably be even more intrigued to see how you have adapted. After all, one of the key skills that a doctor can have is the ability to think on their feet and be adaptable!

Applying for Work Experience:

The Art of Writing Letters and Emails

Written by Rehaan Khokar, 02/11/2020
Y2 Medical Student and Regional Head (Newcastle) & In2MedSchool Teaching/Education Officer

It is a very important skill to have good writing etiquette when inquiring about work experience. You need to ensure that you are:

  • Formal

  • Have good spelling, punctuation and grammar

  • Outline clearly why you’re applying for experience

  • Persistent (!) but patient.

It’s important to remember that people can get very busy and may often not reply. It is a good idea to resend emails/letters if you don't get a reply. Sometimes, there are just too many applicants and they may not be able to offer you any experience specifically - but don’t worry! There are lots and lots of different places to keep trying to try and get experience.

Experience is a very, very important part of your application for medicine as it will allow you to talk about the skills you have gained and developed during your interviews and when writing your personal statements.

Below is a quick guide to help guide you in writing work experience letters/emails:

What is a work experience letter?

A work experience letter is something you attach on your application for work experience, to let a company know you’re interested in finding a placement with them.

It’s similar to a cover letter, although it will tend to focus more on your skills and education, rather than your previous experience (although it is possible to find work experience later on in your career).

What should a work experience letter include?

Although your work experience letter will always be unique to you and your situation, you should generally try to include the following:

  • Who you are

  • What kind of role you’re looking for

  • Your overall career goals (and why this position would help)

  • Your skills (or previous experience, if you have any)

  • Why you’d be suitable for the role

Opening the letter

Who are you, and what are you looking for?

This section should be short, to the point, and most importantly – accurate.

Always double-check to make sure you’ve got the right address and name, and don’t forget to edit it for each organisation you send your letter to. Because (unsurprisingly), work experience letters addressed to the wrong person won’t impress any employer.

And, as work experience placements are rarely formally advertised, it’ll be up to you to make your own offer. So also give the employer a brief outline of who you are, what you’re doing (e.g. at school, university, or working), and explain what you’re looking for.

Main body:

Some topics to cover:

  • What are your aspirations / career goals? (E.g. if applying for work shadowing in A+E, this experience will allow you to gain insight into the life of an A+E doctor which you could be considering).

  • Why are you suitable for this placement?

  • What are your hobbies and interests?

  • How will the experience help you? What do you hope to gain?

Closing the letter:

Conclude what you have discussed:

  • Close the letter summarising your suitability and interest

  • Express your gratitude!

  • Keep this short and concise

  • Sign off with yours sincerely (if you know their name), yours faithfully (if you do NOT know their name).

Learning from my Work Experience - Useful Tables and Charts

Written by Rehaan Khokar, 02/11/2020
Y2 Medical Student and Regional Head (Newcastle) & In2MedSchool Teaching/Education Officer

You can use the following grids as a form of a diary to help you keep on tract of your experiences and what you learnt. These will also be really handy later down the line when writing your personal statement or when preparing for interviews.