Postgraduate Work Experience

A niche population of students has a unique set of challenges when applied to medical school: let's look at how we can make them a smaller problem.

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A niche population of students have a unique set of challenges when applying to medical school: post graduates. It could be argued that they are better equipped with more life experience or slightly more mature, but these often become warning flags that must be addressed come application/interview cycles.

In my experience, the best thing a postgraduate applicant can do to show their dedication to the field is to be in that field. This may seem intuitive, but how many postgraduates go on to use the degree they earned? A study by the New College of the Humanities in London found that half of students do not go into a field related to their degree.1 That being said, you may get a health degree, but you have a coin flip’s chance of sticking with it. Also, not all postgraduates start in a medical or science field. Obviously this is not the case for traditional university students, but postgraduates may not come to the realisation of medicine as an option for a year or two after. So on top of the battle of learning maths and sciences for entrance exams for medical schools, postgraduates have to show their gumption and dedication towards the medical field.

The question becomes – how do you show an interest in medicine without being a doctor? It’s easy to get tunnel vision of the medical world being about the doctor, but in today’s day and age, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), Hospitals, and Trusts all require other specialities to make the world go ‘round including; finance, engineering, HR, IT. Not to mention the birth of healthcare IT (HIT) creating hundreds of jobs in the past 10 years, and a projected doubling of the market (at least in the US; $26 million) over the next 5 years.

Not only will these jobs get you some decent pay (which postgraduates will know is required to make the medical dreams happen), but they show you understand the broad spectrum of healthcare. Yes, we want to patient-centric and as a doctor, the main goal is to give treatment to those who need it. But this is not done without a cost, without systems in place behind the scenes, or without being hired as a start. To be able to function in a complex environment efficiently, it is necessary to at least have an understanding of how the machine works so the gears don’t grind to a halt. In other words, work experience is not only an opportunity to show your dedication and commitment to medicine, but to show you are unique. To show you are more mature in your understanding of a healthcare system and what all is needed to make it function. To show that you have other interests than being a doctor and can bring those strengths to the table, as well as knowledge you’ve acquired from mistakes you’ve learned from in the past.

Finally, working in different areas leads to transferable skills as a medical student and doctor. Drawing on personal experience, i learned customer service at a GP practice, diagnosis codes, Excel, and how to create presentations and present them to superiors. While some are direct in relation to working as a doctor or being a medical student, others give a leg up on other applicants. For instance, knowing how to present will put you in front for research presentations and make you calmer in front of big school presentations.

It is a scary part of being a postgraduate, but I found this to be the most exciting part. Keep your eyes peeled for something in healthcare that’s interesting and that will give you a leg up on your peers. Let the work experience work for you!

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash


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