In many countries, having relevant work experience is essential or highly favourable for a successful medical school application. While this is not always the case in Australia and New Zealand, there are several good reasons to consider having some medical work experience under your belt. Of course, this is not easy in the current COVID-19 context. Here, we provide some expert thoughts and advice.
In five Australian medical schools, a personal statement is required as part of the admissions process. These are James Cook University, Macquarie University, University of Notre Dame (Sydney and Fremantle) and University of Wollongong. While the questions asked in the personal statement differ between universities, it usually includes your motivation for studying medicine, as well as your experiences and activities that support this claim. Possessing an appropriate work experience sends a clear message about your motivation and helps you to stand out among other applications.
Work experience may be advantageous when you participate in a semi-structured medical interview, such as Flinders University, James Cook University and University of New South Wales. Compared to multiple mini interviews (MMIs), these semi-structured interviews usually have some room to talk about your background and experiences. Having a relevant work experience not only demonstrates your motivation for medicine, but allows you to display favourable personal qualities such as proactiveness, commitment and passion.
Even if you are applying to universities that use MMIs to assess their applicants, work experience would be beneficial for developing interpersonal skills and for getting to know more about the medical profession in terms of what is involved and what is required.
Furthermore, you should note that often scholarships (university or externally administered) require a personal statement of some sort, and work experience is a great way to enrich your application.
Normally, you can get work experience in the medical field in a number of ways. These include working or volunteering at a GP clinic, allied health practice, aged care facility, community health service centre and support organizations. Another option is to be involved in medical research as an assistant, volunteer or participant. Usually, work experience needs to be arranged weeks or months in advance and it can be challenging to organize one, but you will be able to find one if you keep trying and be flexible in what hours and services you can offer.
You may be inspired to pursue some work experience, or may have arranged something for yourself already. So what can you do during a COVID-19 lockdown, where all this may not be possible?