Prospective Medical student - when’s best to start work experience?

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Cherrypips Sat 21-Jul-18 14:50:20

My DS is going into yr 11 - he has a crammed school and extra-curricular life but knows he will need some relevant work experience for medical school applications. From experience, what have your DC found works best? Thanks

OP’s posts: |
AlwaysTeaTime Sat 21-Jul-18 15:49:46

Start now. Most medical schools like to see evidence of prolonged volunteering on a personal statement/ at interview to show commitment and other important skills. My DD started volunteering in year 10 and did a variety of medicine related things- 2 years in a special school, 1 year in a nursing home, 6 months in a hospice.

Work experience in a hospital is important but not always easy to get, and you may have to be on a waiting list for a long time. Some hospitals also don’t take students until year 12, when they are sure they are committed to medicine so won’t be wasting their time.

However, work experience in a hospital is not necessary for medical applications- my DD only had one week and got 4 offers. What she found mattered much more on her application was the volunteering- she was asked about it at every interview and was able to draw on her experiences to demonstrate a variety of important skills.

School must come first, but for most medical applicants Y11 is the time when extracurriculars which will help their application need to be prioritised (work experience, volunteering, whichever sport/instrument they are best at) so if he is really set on medicine and already has such a crammed life he will need to begin to think about cutting down on his other activities

LoniceraJaponica Sat 21-Jul-18 19:25:22

DD tried hard to get medical experience, but a lot of places wouldn't accept her until she was 18. She ended up volunteering in a care home, but was restricted by her age, and couldn't handle the residents or even make cups of tea!

She turned 18 last week, and has decided not to do medicine after all.

BubblesBuddy Sat 21-Jul-18 19:33:47

My DDs friend volunteered for the St Johns Ambulance. They have a junior section and she did it for years. This is definitely worthwhile if you are prepared to give the time. Bristol university like volunteering!

LoniceraJaponica Sat 21-Jul-18 19:51:28

IMO all universities do.

goodbyestranger Sat 21-Jul-18 23:00:34

DS1 did a week in a care home in Y11, a week at the regional hospital in Y12 and several days at the local GPs also in Y12. Other than that I can't remember any work experience and yet he got three offers out of four (Bristol rejected without interview) and graduated from Oxford last week in his first choice of London deanery and first choice job and I think plenty of his peers followed the same pattern. Work experience isn't the holy grail that one might be led to believe on MN, in great part because not all DC with the potential to be good medics have connections to get the experience, and the unis know that only too well. DS lacked the connections. I think the med schools try to divine talent over work experience generated by connections, even if well connected DC are at pains in their ps's and interviews to say how much they've learned from the experience etc etc etc etc.

AnnaMagnani Sat 21-Jul-18 23:11:52

What would really be useful is prolonged experience, over time, not generated by family connections.

Medical schools are well aware that GPs, hospitals don't do work experience for potential medical students in the way they used to 20 years ago - I got to sit in on clinics, go to theatre etc. But any local hospice will have volunteering that they get prospective medical students to do, in ours it's teas and coffees at weekends so it is patient contact.

What they might be even more interested in is something that makes it look like you know what the job is going to be like - working at a nursing home as a carer for example. I did that and it''s still useful to me 25 years later.


goodbyestranger Sun 22-Jul-18 10:35:49

Anna prolonged experience over time is a marvellous thing unless, like us, you live in a rural area with no transport links at the relevant times of day or even any at all on the relevant day (Sundays it just doesn't happen) and your mum (eg me) is unable or unwilling to commit to the journey once a week.

Not everyone has a chauffeur and not all 17 year olds have passed their test and even if they have, not absolutely all of them will have a car, although no doubt the DC of many doctors will be in that happy position, so perhaps the latter haven't really thought this through.

AnnaMagnani Sun 22-Jul-18 10:48:42

Ah my DF gave me a lot of lifts!

However nowadays, a lot of doctors, me included, would be actively discouraging their DC from a career in medicine. So no advantages there.

goodbyestranger Sun 22-Jul-18 10:56:28

Fair enough.

Although at the Oxford graduation last Saturday there was an evening reception for the whole cohort and a striking number of the graduands had medic parents. Also, at our school (a grammar) we have a lot of medic parents whose DC go on to read medicine, more so than those with non medic parents. So I'm not sure I totally buy that one smile

WonkyWay Sun 22-Jul-18 15:37:13

I think prolonged and varied work experience is useful for potential medics because it gives them a better idea about whether it's the career for them or not. A week here or there may be ok for the application but it's not really enough to get a proper idea of what the job is really like.

A lot of my DCs friends (F1s and F2's) regret their decision to become doctors and quite a few have dropped out.

Getting an offer of a place at Uni to study medicine is just the start.

AnnaMagnani Sun 22-Jul-18 16:49:57

WonkyWay I agree. There is a massive dropout after F2 years with many never coming back to medicine.

With regards to children of medics become medics - when I was at uni this was a frequent topic of conversation with those students swearing blind that their parents had nothing to do with their decision whatsoever.

For all of them, at some point in the course, there was a realisation, that yes, their parents job had been a big factor in their choice of degree. For some this was fine, it was OK, they still wanted to do medicine after all, just they hadn't been quite the free spirits they had thought. For others it was a disaster - quite a few dropped out and others were very unhappy as they clearly hated the degree but couldn't bear to tell their parents.

goodbyestranger Sun 22-Jul-18 17:21:34

Wonky why should those thinking of going into medicine have to spend what little free time they have in sixth form going through the motions once a week at a care home to 'see what they're getting into'. Those going into other equally valid professions aren't treated as though they're totally naive. I'm pretty sure that plenty of those wanting to go into medicine are perfectly capable of working out what sort of career it is without subscribing to this care home mantra. If they want to work in a care home every weekend then great, but it's very patronising to think medicine holds such mystery that there has to be some kind of prolonged initiation process. DS1 had no wish to spend his time doing that and didn't, and yet he's now leaning towards geriatric medicine as his specialty. It really isn't necessary providing a DC is tolerably bright and doesn't live in a shell.

Libra Sun 22-Jul-18 17:28:22

DS1 (now entering FY2) did not have a lot of experience in hospitals etc because of our remote location. What he did have - and what he was asked about a lot in interviews - was a long-standing commitment to jazz. He was able to discuss jazz in terms of group work and leadership skills very well. He also had volunteer work with the local cub pack, at school with younger classes in biology, and - somewhat bizarrely - a job at the local butchers. He discussed this in terms of learning about animal bodies and dealing with blood...
Universities understand that not all prospective students can get opportunities in hospitals and are looking for an ability to talk intelligently about the skills and experience other opportunities have given them.

AnnaMagnani Sun 22-Jul-18 17:29:33

Because when you see FY1 and FY2 doctors on the wards, the job is nothing like they imagined at school. You would be surprised how many applicants do live in a shell - the interview process is to weed those out but isn't always successful.

goodbye it's great that your DS is happy in his career but loads aren't. Many specialties are struggling to recruit and drop out rates are high. Deaneries are putting a lot of effort in to keep supporting trainees after they have qualified as med school is not the end of the story.

MedSchoolRat Sun 22-Jul-18 18:06:32

Some of this I don't recognise (I interview Medicine applicants, often about work experience). DD wants to do medicine (I am not a medic, myself, btw). I got her some experience last week (end of yr11). I found another placement she can do before start of yr13. It's up to her if she pursues more than that.

Far as I know, our admissions use their WE minimally, some is plenty, because it's what they get out of it that we care about, not how much or exactly what they did.

We follow GMC guidelines (have to, they grade us). Whatever GMC says to do for work experience is what we'll expect. No less, no more.
We don't give our applicants extra points for volunteering; only some medical schools insist on volunteering. Most applicants describe just 2 WEs they did (we don't have time to talk about more). Examples:

*Medical environment where they got to observe a qualified doctor at work, for 1-5 days. Most have only one placement like this.
*Sort-of medical environment but no doctors, like a carehome or hospice.
*Non-medical environment but with vulnerable people or Jo Public: StJA, running art sessions for non-verbal kids, caring for a disabled sibling, etc.
*Other customer service roles where they can easily argue they picked up transferable experiences & skills (eg., working in ShoeZone).

WonkyWay Sun 22-Jul-18 20:36:00

^ Wonky why should those thinking of going into medicine have to spend what little free time they have in sixth form going through the motions once a week at a care home to 'see what they're getting into'^

I don't know if you realize how snarky and pompous a lot of your posts come across on Mumsnet. I didn't even mention working in care homes so I'm not sure why you are going on about them. 🤷🏻‍♀️

Anyway, well done on managing to remind us that your son went to Oxford and that he got his first place choice afterwards, I'd nearly forgotten 🤔

goodbyestranger Sun 22-Jul-18 22:23:11

Way less pompous and snarky than that post of your own though Wonky smile

Weird emojis too.

Other people mention care homes a lot and you mentioned long term. I'm struggling to think of what medical setting you could work in for a prolonged period other than a care home or hospice tbh.

goodbyestranger Sun 22-Jul-18 22:24:45

Anna he still likes medicine but I wouldn't say that as someone about to start F1 tomorrow he has a career yet as such.

olympicsrock Sun 22-Jul-18 22:40:47

I’ve interviewed at Imperial and Oxford. As a previous poster said there is only time to discuss 2 work experiences. Most people have 1 medical work experience ( GP or hospital ) and another role such as volunteering with the elderly / career in nursing home that shows that they understand that Medicine is not always glamorous. I’ve had quite a few 16/17 year olds shadow me. Most trusts have a department where you can apply. My employer will take a certain number of students for work experience per month so it’s worth applying early. It is easier if you can arrange to shadow a personal contact but not always necessary.

Needmoresleep Mon 23-Jul-18 10:12:30

Its horses for courses. Med school courses vary, and students vary. And medicine itself offered a good variety of careers.

Medical schools will not want to use the same selection criteria, as then they would all be picking the same students. They will also want to select those students that are right for their courses.

The NHS will be concerned that those selected know what they are letting themselves in for, and will want to remain within the NHS long-term. An Oxbridge educated friend says that she was the only one of her friendship group still working as a doctor 10 years after graduation. Some will have gone on to be sucessful in other fields using their knowledge of the health industry: law, investment finance, etc, but this is not what the NHS wants.

So the NHS want to see evidence that that prospective students know what they are letting themselves in for (it not all Gray's Anatomy), how the NHS works, and that they can cope with it through the longer term. Hence the guidance posted by MedSchoolRat. Some of the more hands on courses will presumably then be looking for more. This too is fine. DD did loads of volunteering, essentially because she is quite a hands on person and will probably be that sort of doctor. She much preferred doing practical stuff with people than practice for UKCAT. This limited her choices, but also meant that she is on a course where they are observing from the second week, and where before starting her second year, she has already done a number of HCA shifts, including one an acute ward where, sadly, someone died. She is expected to do a full month of HCA shifts, including nights, before next term starts. She is also required to volunteer in her student City.

Stranger may correct me, but I understand the first year of the course her son took, has a different approach, and would have required different strengths from their 18 year olds. Given Stranger's DS is clearly very bright, my guess would be that the one offer he did not get, was from a medical school that was looking for a different ratio of practical experience to academic.

OP your son needs to do a minimum outlined by Medschoolrat and if he is reluctant he will not be the only one to treat shadowing/volunteering as a box ticmking exercise. The skill required is to be able to talk about it enthusiastically. However he might turn the decision round. Is he happy to work with old people? With children? With the severly disabled? Is he calm in a crisis? Can he cope with bodily fluids? Can he work in a team with people from a great diversity of backgrounds? Is there anything he wants to test? What might help his confidence going into an interview? Is he likely to want to apply for a hand-on course? From memory Lancaster and Bristol were the ones who wanted evidence of sustained volunteering, though this may have changed.

DD spent a summer (post yr 11) working in a care home cleaning, kitchen portering and waitressing, which she enjoyed. (She started as a volunteer, until the other support staff complained on her behalf that she was being excploited and should be paid. Fair enough. They kept adding shifts till one week she did 7 days of double shifts.) She then did a ski season during her gap year working for a family ski company, where she found dealing with family dynamics one of the more difficult parts of the job, something that might affect future career decisions. She helped out with a weekly disabled swimming session at our local leisure centre for a couple of years, which was really rewarding. One-to-one including hoists, helping overcome fear etc. (There are volunteering opportunities beyond care homes - and leisure centres are a good place to ask.) She also did a week at a summer camp for the disabled at the end of year 12, which was tough, but which she again loved. (Happy to PM the name of the organiser - they have volunteer run camps across the UK, plus volunteers run weekly activities in some cities.) Indeed this summer she is repeating the last two activities, not because she needs to tick boxes, but because she wants to.

She also did three shadowing stints, arranged through friends. These were useful to help her understand what doctors actually do, but my assumption is that not everyone has useful friends and so medical schools will be wary of expecting it.

I am sure that some careers in medicine will echo careers elsewhere. Go to a top University, get a first, be accepted by a "Magic Circle" London deanery and in your preferred specialisation. Continue to progress with the aim of applying for a consultancy at a well regarded hospital in your early 30s, and so on. This was not what DD wanted and she chose not to sit BMAT, thus ruling out Oxbridge/UCL/Imperial. She will be fine, Stranger's son will be fine. OP's son should think a bit about what he wants from a medical career. If his dream job is as a GP on Shetland, he should look at St Andrews and read their entry requirements carefully. There is little point volunteering just to tick boxes, but lots of value to be gained from good volunteering experience and knowing what you want from it.

Needmoresleep Mon 23-Jul-18 10:14:37

Sorry that was long, but this has come up before, and Stranger and I have regularly been on opposite sides of the argument. I thought it might be worth exploring why. I am not a medic, so happy to be corrected.

goodbyestranger Mon 23-Jul-18 10:37:54

Needmoresleep we haven't been on opposite sides of any argument as far as I'm concerned. And I don't generalize from the particular of my own DS, that would be extremely narrow.

I do however think that MN blows the whole work experience thing way out of proportion and for many DC obtaining work experience in the absence of connected parents and workable transport is extremely difficult. The medical schools know this. It's not a pre-requisite, doesn't prove aptitude and in the same way that MN appears to say that crazy levels of prep for the eleven plus and Oxbridge entrance are a necessity, I think can be extremely worrying for those not able to secure, or get to, reams of placements through Y11 and 12. I have a slight interest is debunking these myths.

Simply because a DC did loads of work experience and got offers doesn't mean that that clinched the deal. More informative is the experience of those who didn't do loads but still got multiple offers. There's much more to it than spending your sixth form in long term posts and one crucial thing for a medic is to know how to relax - DS and his friends honed that skill instead, which has a value all of its own. And I'd strongly defend those DC against the charge that they don't know what they're getting into, because they seem to know only too well.

Needmoresleep Mon 23-Jul-18 11:03:37

Stranger, were you a lawyer in a previous life? Even the last post leaves me feeling as if I have been rubbished. All I am saying is that DD enjoyed volunteering, and got into a medical school that claims to value it. I was careful not to suggest that was true of everyone and everywhere. There are a lot of different hurdles, but you dont need to jump them all. And other DC are not failures because they are not resoundingly sucessful as your DC. I was trying to suggest that having ambitions other than a top London deanery can be equally valid.


"And I'd strongly defend those DC against the charge that they don't know what they're getting into, because they seem to know only too well."

I am not sure that this is always true. Which is why I assume the GMC have guidelines. I assume your DC did not go to school in a big city. Believe me it is not uncommon for kids to confess to others, that they don't want to be Doctors, but this is what their parents expect. You don't need to google long to discover there is a whole, and expensive, industry built around getting your child into medical school. I encouraged DD to volunteer, especially in the care home, because I wanted her to be sure she wanted to study medicine, and it was not something she had announced aged 13 (she loved House confused) and felt unable to go back from. The care home manager was very supportive. Not everyone is comfortable working with the elderly, and its something best discovered earlier rather than later.

DD says that judging from the shrinking size of tutor groups, there were a number of drop outs duyring the first year of her course. I obviously don't know the reasons, though she suggested one or two of her peers found anatomy labs difficult. I assume Universities themselves know why they lose students and structure their admissions to minimise risk.

goodbyestranger Mon 23-Jul-18 11:13:46

Needmoresleep I can't help how you read so much which is personal into other people's posts, but you do seem to always.

Equally, I'm not sure where the specific comment about my own DC came from, but it was not necessary.

DC with aspirations to be a doctor need to know that multiple placements and long term volunteering are not necessary, on any level. My own DC (and many of their friends) all worked for money each weekend and in the holidays. That takes time which is therefore not free to volunteer.

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