Work Experience in Australia and New Zealand - Thoughts and Advice



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.

When work experience is directly beneficial

In five Australian medical schools, a personal statement (or portfolio) 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 appropriate work experience sends a clear message that you are motivated to study medicine and you understand the demands of the career. It also helps you to stand out among other applications.

Indirect benefits of work experience

Work experience may be advantageous when you participate in a semi-structured medical interview, such as Flinders University, James Cook University, University of New South Wales, and University of Wollongong.

Compared to multiple mini interviews (MMIs), these semi-structured interviews usually have some room to talk about your background and experiences. Having relevant work experience not only demonstrates your motivation for medicine, but allows you to display favourable personal qualities such as proactiveness, commitment and passion.

If you are applying to universities that use MMIs to assess their applicants, work experience will be relevant to bring up in some stations. However, we recommend not trying to force an anecdote about your experience into a response that it isn't appropriate for.

Even for stations that don’t encourage anecdotes, 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.

Where can you get work experience? What do you do in the COVID-19 context?

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 organisations.

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 organise, but you will be able to find one if you keep trying and are 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 not all of the normal work experience opportunities may be available?

  • Find out what the medical profession requires and involves in a number of ways. If you have any medical students or doctors in your family or as acquaintances, you can ask them questions about their study and work. If you don’t, you can make use of online forums such as MedStudentsOnline. Reading 'Good Medical Practice: A Code of Conduct for Doctors in Australia' by the Medical Board of Australia or 'Good Medical Practice' by the Medical Council of New Zealand is very useful for understanding the duties of healthcare professionals and how they should act and respond in different circumstances.
  • Keep up-to-date with the current news in medical research and healthcare, as questions or scenarios relevant to current issues may come up in interviews. Make sure to use reliable sources for this because answering a question with sensationalistic or incorrect information does not send a good message to the interviewer.
  • Last but not least, remember that success comes to those who are prepared. While no one knows when the COVID-19 pandemic will resolve, you should keep an eye out for potential work experience opportunities in the future and become involved as soon as the situation permits.

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