Feeling Lost During Work Experience?

Feeling lost in your work experience is more common than you might think, so we have provided some tips and advice that you can take into account throughout this new process!

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It’s a nightmare scenario: walking around an unfamiliar place, knowing you need to be helping but not being sure how you can do that. The professionals all pass you by with barely any acknowledgement while you get the feeling that your presence is more of a hindrance than anything.

It’s not a great feeling, but it doesn’t need to be this way. You’re going to want an exciting and insightful experience to write about in your personal statement, so let’s see how you can make the best of a bad situation, or potentially even find your place in this new, busy environment!  

Here’s the scene: You’re wandering aimlessly around the ward, feeling totally out of place. There is a nurse who’s supposed to be in charge of you and she did acknowledge you ten minutes ago, but she didn’t tell you what to do.

So you’re walking around like an idiot, thinking like, do I refill the alcohol gel dispensers? The gloves? Or do I chat to that patient–wait, no, he’s sleeping…

Eventually, you do get some jobs to do, but it’s the same old: preparing tea and coffee, collecting orders for lunch, organising the store cupboard. And yeah, you’re helping, you feel good about that, but you really wanted to see some medicine in action. You did see some doctors, but they paid zero attention to you and they looked way too busy to take your questions. And with each silly mistake you might make you want to sink deeper and deeper into the ground.

We’ve all been there. We’ve all come back home from work experience, virtually broken inside, like, “Is this medicine? Is this thing for me? What is life?” So let’s talk about it and sort things out.

Identify the Issue

First off, I’d advise having a long, deep, meaningful chat with yourself. In your head, ask yourself exactly what made you displeased with your work experience and potentially ambivalent towards medicine. Common issues include:

There are many reasons why you might get those mixed feelings beyond this list. Trying to identify and zoom in on the specific issue at hand can usually point you in the right direction of what you should do next. There’s always something you can do, so here are some more tips on how to figure this thing out!

Try Something Different

After an encounter with work experience that wasn’t so great, many of us will feel kind of weird, almost disillusioned. It’s because being a prospective medic is filled with such enthusiasm for your future in medicine. Naturally, you’d expect to love your work experience, so it can be a surprise when it doesn’t meet your expectations. But maybe, quite possibly, it’s the work experience arrangement or lack of variety that was the issue rather than your enthusiasm for medicine.

Why not try other types of work experience? Medicine is an extremely wide-ranging field and maybe, just from the way your workplace is organised, you’re getting only part of the picture. Also, different specialties attract different kinds of people. Not everyone’s about that hospital medicine life – why not try your local GP?

One other thing to consider is the impacts of a certain pandemic from 2020. It may feel like ages ago that you were trapped in your room and unable to even get a foot in the door of the medical industry, but the effects of COVID still linger across all industries. One result of this is that home/online work experience is more popular than ever. If your issue is not getting enough ‘medical action’  then this may not be the solution you need. However, you may find that the admin side of things is more up your alley anyway!

Get More Involved

If you’re trying out different types of work experience and time and time again you feel lost and awkward, maybe you could ask yourself whether you’re approaching it all at the right angle. Of course, you know that work experience won’t allow you to be a doctor for the day – it gives you insight and understanding into what makes a good doctor. You may not have gotten what you wanted from your first go in medicine, but this experience doesn’t represent the whole of your future career. Read some more on how to get the most out of your work experience and never be afraid to ask someone there what you can do to help. You’ll endear yourself to them much more than waiting around to be told what to do!

PS

Talk to Someone

Sometimes politely telling the person in charge of your work experience how you feel and explain to them your plans to enter medicine could allow them to be more mindful when managing you. This could modify your experience so that you feel more useful and/or see more things that interest you.

Of course, there is a chance that your manager isn’t going to appreciate your comments, that’s just the nature of working in any environment, let alone a highly stressful one. You can usually tell apart a person who isn’t going to be very receptive to your thoughts,  someone who’s cold, uncaring, perhaps they’re the reason you’re feeling like this. It’s just an unfortunate truth that some people are more friendly than others, so it’s important to remember that this isn’t a permanent placement and that there are plenty of people in the industry who will be much more pleasant to work with.   

Outside of your placement, you can also talk to other people to get advice and support with making your decisions. Whether it’s your friends, medical students you may know, a teacher or a careers adviser, simply chatting to someone can help in ways you may not even realise. When we’re confused, our thoughts are an indiscernible tangle – verbalising them can help you to see clearly and make rational decisions. After one conversation, what was once a “I can’t do this, I’m too dumb for medicine” meltdown can become a calm “I just don’t think geriatrics is for me” statement.

Be Honest with Yourself

Ultimately, this is the most important piece of advice. There are times in your life when you have to keep it real with yourself. If work experience repeatedly makes you question your plans to study medicine and you genuinely think you might hate it, you should take those feelings seriously. One of the purposes of work experience is to prevent the difficulties that come from dropping out of your degree. This isn’t something to be embarrassed about.

Having said that, for the vast majority of people it won’t go that far. Pretty much all of us will at some point feel lost, bored, dumb and/or awkward during our experience – and guess what? That doesn’t change all that much in medical school! What does change is your expectations and your abilities to deal with it all, so getting that process of learning started early will reduce the headaches you’ll likely be getting when you’re studying at uni.

To sum up

Are you also feeling lost with your Personal Statement?

6med’s Complete Personal Statement Bundle gives you access to everything you need to write a winning Personal Statement. You’ll be able to attend our Personal Statement Crash Course, get 5 x edits from us, and use our expert Workbook which will give you plenty of examples and advice. 

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