How To Get Medical Work Experience In 2021 [COVID-19]

A pandemic demonstrates the importance of doctors, and how vital they are Unfortunately for you, the added stress on health services, and isolations, means that getting work experience as a doctor is now harder than ever. But, as always, 6med is here to help. We can't promise a cure, but we can help you develop solid action points for your personal statement to ensure Covid-19 doesn't affect your application.

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If there was ever a time to demonstrate the importance of doctors, it’s during a pandemic. Unfortunately for you, the added stress on healthcare services, together with strict isolation guidelines, means getting medical work experience is now more difficult than ever.

But as usual, 6med is here to help! We can’t promise a cure, but we can help you to develop solid action points for your personal statement to ensure Covid-19 doesn’t affect your application or, worse, your motivation to study medicine.

Read on to discover everything about the personal statement and Covid-19, including:

  • Should you mention it at all?
  • What if I can’t get medical work experience?
  • How to distance yourself from the group

First off... Take a breath

The first thing we want to say is everyone is in the same boat.

Universities understand that you are going through a less-than-ideal time during your application and disruptions to school, home life and general plans will affect every student.

The best way to approach the situation is to take the positives: the pandemic has made us all super aware of how important doctors are, so you should be proud to be actively pursuing the career.

Information on the roles of doctors, ethical problems and the science of disease is more available than ever and you may have even had unique experiences that have given you an insight into the profession that a week of shadowing simply wouldn’t have.

Should you mention Covid-19?

The simple answer here is: probably not, unless you have a particular experience/insight from the pandemic OR you’re interested in a relevant medical topic.

This could be respiratory medicine, infectious diseases, virology, public health, epidemiology or anything else related.

If you do mention the pandemic, it could be in the form of:

  1. Your motivation to study medicine: if you’ve had a particular experience (such as personal or with a loved one) or are particularly interested in one of the topics above then this is relevant it’s important to focus on what insights you’ve gained and your reflections
  2. Your interests and reading: again, if you’re interested in virology (viruses are pretty cool) and have read up on them, it’s totally fine to mention the pandemic as long as you’re describing why you’re interested and giving evidence for your interest

However, don’t feel like you have to mention it, especially if you’re motivations and interests aren’t directly related.

Again, the universities will know you’ve been through it and if you give a general account of the pandemic without any personal reflection, you risk falling into the “boring” pile!

Can’t get work experience?

Again, we want to reiterate that the universities understand the problems you’ll have with hospital and GP placements. So we’ve given you some alternatives to boost your personal statement and ensure you still have the opportunity to explore the profession and demonstrate your interest:

Utilise online work experience programmes

There are some really good opportunities for online experience including Observe GP (by the RCGP) and Brighton & Sussex University Medical School’s virtual work experience. Explore programmes online and utilise social media to see what opportunities are there!

Arrange video calls with healthcare professionals

This is a great way to get personalised, 1-to-1 insight into the profession but of course might be difficult to get. The best way to get a foot in the door is either use personal contacts (hopefully you have a friend or relative in healthcare) or simply email/call GP practices – you won’t know until you try!

Seek non-medical work experience

Work experience isn’t a tick box exercise: it’s an opportunity to get insight into the profession and see what skills may be needed. Some of these skills, such as teamwork, communication, empathy and diligence, can be seen in many other professions.

Remember you can link almost anything back to medicine as long as you are reflecting on these skills, which means voluntary work, fundraising, team projects and other non-medical ventures are still worthwhile and may be easier to get.

Explore the profession in other ways

If you look in newspapers, at online articles and social media you’ll see an ever-growing collection of information. This may seem less like “work experience” but again, remember the purpose of work experience: you want to gain an insight into the profession.

We would highly recommend you keep a reflective journal/collection of articles that you’ve read.

Focus on what they taught you about the profession, how it differed from what you expected and how you’ve used the experience going forward. 

Find more tips on how to get the most of your work experience in our Expert Guide here!

How to use Covid-19 to pull ahead of the group

As difficult a time as it is, the pandemic also gives you lots of opportunities to demonstrate passion, interest and a teachable approach – something that Universities are actively looking for!
  1. Dig deeper!
Think and reflect on specific aspects of the pandemic, particularly if it links to an area that interests you. There are several deeper issues around public health, ethics and education that you can think about- how did the leaders do in managing it? Would you do anything differently? What have we learnt from this?
  1. Prepare questions.
At your interview, you’ll probably be talking to scientists or doctors – so ask them about the pandemic! Anything that particularly interested you, any impressions you got from the news that you want to contrast with the actual healthcare experience, or even just the background science.
  1. Be proactive.
You can bet on the pandemic coming up in one way or another so think about what may be asked and do some research. It doesn’t have to be particularly high level (unless you’ve mentioned a particular interest in your personal statement) but be prepared for questions!

Closing Up

So hopefully you now know how Covid-19 might crop up and how you can use it in your personal statement. As action points, we suggest research on the basics of the pandemic (if you haven’t already), online work experience and brainstorming if you want to mention Covid-19 in your personal statement, using the tips given above.

Remember that the medical application is a marathon of hurdles and the pandemic is yet another hurdle. More importantly, it should serve as a reminder of why you’re pursuing this profession- not just for the discounts and evening applause!

Check out some of our other amazing Work Experience Guides! Our top picks include: 

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