5 min read

Work Experience For Medical School Applicants

Published on
June 3, 2024

Volunteering and work experience can be important elements of your medical school application. These admission boosters don’t just portray you in a good light, but also assure medical schools of your unwavering motivation to pursue medicine or dentistry.

Medical schools ultimately want candidates who will go on to become lifelong doctors. By undertaking medical work experience, you are more likely to understand the intricacies of medical practice, warts and all. It is not easy to determine a general work experience that is the right fit for everyone as each individual has a unique personality and will have access to different opportunities. In saying that, what we can do is explore the opportunities generally to give you ideas about where to go from here as you work towards your medical school goals.

So without further ado, let us jump into figuring out some of the possible options of gaining work experiences and ways to secure the opportunities before entering medical school

Difference Between Medical Work Experience and Volunteering

As mentioned earlier, the experiences encountered by each individual will differ by a great deal.  This is because each one of us has had access to a wide-range of opportunities, and additionally, many of you will have different experiences and values that you want to demonstrate to the medical schools you are applying for.

More often than not, volunteering work and work experiences are used interchangeably and are assumed to be of similar nature. While this is true to a certain extent, what many fail to understand is that volunteer medical work experience usually revolves around working in charitable events, mentoring juniors, or engaging within local community events. Despite the unpaid aspect of volunteering, it has major pros with regards to highlighting your leadership skills, willingness to function under varied circumstances, and importantly time management skills as you devote time out of your schedule to still perform adequately.

Some examples of medical related volunteering could be in the form of staffing a first aid tent at the local kids football or cricket club. If you are looking for something that is more formal, you could consider volunteering with St John Ambulance, who help people in a range of situations.

The distinction between volunteering and medical work experience is that when undertaking medical work experience you are not in a role that is helping others. That being said, there are some benefits to medical work experience, such as truly exposing you to the demands of the medical career.

Unlike the United States and the United Kingdom, Australian medical schools highly value volunteering in medical related fields, without necessitating you to undertake formal hospital work experience. But for your own self, it might be worth chatting to a family friend or mentor about the good and bad aspects of being a doctor, so you can make an informed decision about what you want to do and demonstrate an understanding of the realities during your medical interview. 

How To Get Medical Work Experience?

Before you contemplate on which work experience is well-suited for you, you need to understand that work experience for medical school is not limited to shadowing a doctor or assisting in a day-to-day hospital ward. Medical work experience can be extended to welcome a range of fields that are ultimately character elevators to medical admissions.

Besides working in close proximity to doctors and nurses, there are other work placements like  nursing homes, aged-care facilities, physiotherapy centres, or even working with paramedics that are all good for helping you understand what you would be doing at medical school and later as a doctor.

Find A Medicine Work Experience Near Me

If a simple google search on ‘restaurants near me’ can satisfy your taste buds for the day, the method, needless to say can be applicable to finding relevant work experiences near you too. The local hospitals, physiotherapist centre, pharmacies in your vicinity are a great place to start looking for work experience, especially since it logistically reduces travel time.

The best way to seek experience is to contact the relevant party’s HR department and find out the procedure to submit an application or a request that states your interest and motivation to gain work experience for your future in medicine. Some medical centres in your neighbourhood would be known for offering work placements to students who desire to gain insights into the healthcare industry.

However, getting into a local hospital or a pharmacy may not be easily attainable and a simple email or phone call may not do the deed. Especially because the admin staff are often busy juggling numerous tasks throughout the day. The best strategy would be to visit the medical centre in person and enquire with the receptionist to set up a meeting to highlight the importance of this work experience for your future career.

Reach Out To A Doctor Or Nurse Of Your Choice

Although it is nerve-wracking to talk to experienced doctors and nurses, there is no need to be anxious because ultimately this opportunity can potentially be a good influence on your med school application. Considering the fact that you have never worked in the day-to-day functions of a big hospital setting, shadowing a doctor and their staff in a clinic would be a great place to understand how healthcare works on a small scale.

In order to secure some experience under one healthcare professional, the first thing that you need to do is to be persistent towards communicating your intentions in this opportunity. Bear in mind that the doctor or nurse that you wish to observe will have a busy work schedule, especially if you are aiming to be present at a clinic. They have to attend to different patients on a daily basis which will be exhausting on its own, hence, your request might not be their priority. Therefore, the best approach is to connect with their assistants or the receptionist to book an appointment.

This brings us to another important point, that the first professional you reach out to may not necessarily give you an opportunity simply because they don’t have the provision for it. Therefore, you may need to create a list of viable options that offer student work experiences for medicine, even if it means that you need to travel some distance.

Contact Your General Practitioner For A Medical Work Experience

Now that we have established that work experience is important for medical school, it is not always an easy road getting into a clinic or hospital without any prior connection with the staff. Hence, another great way to secure work experience is booking an appointment with your GP who you are familiar with, and can comfortably disclose your interest behind this opportunity.

Although there is no guarantee of your GP securing you a spot within their clinic, there is certainly no harm in exploring all of your possibilities. Moreover, shadowing a GP can be a great way to understand communication with patients, the recurring questions that need to be asked to deduce the right diagnosis.

These are interesting and relevant experiences that could also be helpful when you are invited for a MMI interview station where you will be given scenarios and evaluated on your tone of communication

Where To Next?

We hope this article was helpful to you and could direct your search to find good work experiences before you apply to medical school. Work experiences have great value in medical universities, especially for universities like UoW and UNDA that accept portfolios and personal statements. 

If you are applying to medical school in 2022, here’s a complete guide to apply to any university of your preference. 

Additionally, the March 2022 GAMSAT is right around the corner, so here are some useful articles and podcasts that can help you with your GAMSAT prep.

  1. GAMSAT study timeline
  2. GAMSAT Marking Scheme
  3. Postgraduate medical school preferencing guide