What experiences do you need before entering the medical field?

Work or volunteer experience – why is it beneficial for me?

Vacation time usually brings in the feel of being lazy, catching up on movies and TV shows, chilling by the pool, traveling and lots more fun activities. But it can also be used in a productive manner by gaining valuable experience in the field of medicine (if getting an MD degree is your ambition).

Work or volunteer experience boats your understanding of what really happened in the medical work, what the realities are of involving yourself in the profession of caring for others and also gives you an understanding of the challenges and demands of the medical profession.

Experience in the medical field gives you the opportunity to understand and inculcate the needed attitudes, skills and behaviors that are required of a doctor. Communication skills, empathy, social skills, people centric, organizational skills, detail oriented, to name a few.

This experience will not only look good in your personal statement but give you the added advantage of combining studies with experience showing that you are willing to do what it takes to earn your MD degree.

How much work experience do I need?

As much experience as you can get. There is no specific limit or number of hours. But it is beneficial for you to work in a variety of different places that will give you exposure to various elements and components involved in the medical field. Don’t worry too much about the quality of work, length of time or how prominent a work experience is. Instead engage in these volunteer or work activities in order to learn from every experience and take in the insights and awareness that these experiences can provide.

Start looking at your options as early as you can. Send polite request letters in advance. Be persistent in your attempts at getting a spot in the healthcare facilities you have asked to work at.  Ask friends and family if they can get you in touch with any medical professionals who will guide you in this endeavor. Ask your family doctor if you can shadow him or her for a set amount of time to gain an insight into what he or she does. Take up jobs as a receptionist at a clinic, giving meals for patients, or go on community visits. The highest profile experiences aren’t always the best teachers about the reality of medicine, so try to be flexible and open-minded and opt for a variety of jobs. Any experience is good experience. All this will help you get before all the competition arrives and enable you acquire the required experience faster than anyone else.

Are there any other relevant experiences I can try out?

Many non-clinical experiences too will help you develop valuable skills that are necessary for the field of medicine. Take up tutoring students – builds communication, patience, social skills, organizational skills, etc. Organize any event like a fund raiser – teaches you organizational skills, interpersonal skills, coordination skills, etc. Take up culinary lessons– dexterity is an important skill to be optimized in the field of medicine, confidence, being meticulous and through, etc.

Use these jobs and training to teach you valuable skills you need as a physician. You can mention these in your personal statements which will add depth to your experience.

What questions will my interviewer ask about my work or volunteer experience?

These are few questions you can prepare for before heading into the interview about your work or volunteer experiences:

  1. What key things did your work experience teach you?
  2. What did you observe at your workplaces – any skills or abilities people need to be physicians?
  3. What skills do you think you have acquired that make you eligible to study medicine?
  4. What impressed you most about the staff and healthcare professionals?
  5. What did you learn about teamwork during your experiences?
  6. What do you feel about the demands and challenges that are brought about by the profession of medicine?
  7. Give us an example of an event that was most memorable to you while you worked.
  8. What was most challenging according to you in your work or volunteering experiences?
  9. Give us an example of an incident that you considered challenging and how you handle that situation.
  10. How has your non-clinical experience helped?
  11. What have you done until now to gain an appreciation for the study of medicine?
  12. How does communication affect a physician? Give us an example of good and an example of bad communication while you were working.
  13. Who are the important people who provide care for patients?
  14. What are some of the major advantages and disadvantages of the place where you worked?
  15. Are there any differences that you observed between primary and secondary care?
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