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12 Questions to ask during your medical work experience

12 Questions to ask during your medical work experience

Holly Melvin
4th Year Medical Student at The University of Manchester, Instagram account: @that.girl.medic
May 18, 2021
Organising work experience in a medical setting during a pandemic can be a complete nightmare. Thus ensuring that you ask the right questions and make the most of your experience and get the best and most helpful experience you can is vital. 

It doesn’t matter if you’ve only managed to find experience for one or two days. If you’re able to ask the right questions, you will have more than enough to talk about at your interview and in your personal statement. 

In this article, I will discuss questions to ask during your work experience that will hopefully mean you get as much out of it as you can. As with all articles, have a pen and paper handy or a word document open so you can jot down hints and tips you find particularly useful and then have them ready and waiting for you to read the night before you start your experience! 

Questions to ask before your work experience

Although this article will mainly focus on questions to ask during your work experience, I think some questions are helpful for you to ask your supervisor beforehand. So that you can get the most out of it.

What speciality will I have my experience in?

Suppose you have organised work experience with a hospital (virtual hospital experience including!). In that case, it is worth asking them beforehand, “what speciality will I have my experience in?”

By asking this, you have the opportunity to do a little bit of reading up about the speciality beforehand. For example, if you’re in the operating room for the day, what types of surgery you might come across.

By reading / watching documentaries beforehand, you may uncover ethical and moral dilemmas that may be specific to this speciality. Have a think about these, and then discuss them with your supervisor (if you are lucky, you may even see them unfold in real-time). This is a really great opportunity to reflect on in your personal statement and interviews. 

Where exactly will I be? What should I wear?

It is also worth asking simple questions such as:

  • “where exactly will I be?”, 
  • “is there public transport / parking spaces available”
  • “what should I wear” and 
  • “what time should I arrive for”

Asking these questions ensures a smooth start to your work experience journey. 

Hopefully, you will arrive on time, in the right attire and make a good impression! First impressions do count, and you want to make the best that you can so that your supervisor makes time for you. 

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Questions to ask during your work experience

You could ask so many questions during your work experience that this is by no means an exhaustive list. Do jot these down, but keep a running list of your own and talk to your colleagues and family who may have more suggestions.

Why medicine?

This is a question that you will undoubtedly be asked during your medical school interviews. Whilst formulating your own response can take time and should be personal to you, hearing other people’s reasoning and experiences may resonate with you and help to guide you to your answer. 

Why this speciality?

Doctors usually are very passionate about their speciality and will have lots to say about its advantages. Whilst you may not be at this stage yet, it is always good to be thinking about the future and what you may want to do. 

Additionally, the answers to this question may be applicable more broadly to the question “why medicine”, and so again, help you with this.

What is their average day like?

During medical school interviews, interviewers will want to know you have a realistic view of what being a doctor is actually like. 

Being a doctor is not just about saving lives! Doctors do treat patients but will often do teaching, research, meetings with other doctors and health professionals, and more boring admin type work as well.

All of these other parts of the job are equally as important. Asking your supervisor will help you find out about all these different parts of the job and why they’re all an important part of being a doctor. 

What parts of medicine and their job do they find particularly challenging?

Again, part of undertaking work experience is to help you understand the realities of being a doctor. This will include some tough and emotionally, and physically challenging situations. 

This is potentially a complicated question for your supervisor, and certain experiences such as patient deaths can be very emotionally challenging. Make sure you approach it with tact. 

However, don’t be afraid to ask this question. It’s essential you see and understand both the good and the bad of being a doctor. This question is vital for this and for your preparation for interviews. 

A good question to follow from this is ‘How have they built emotional resilience? What things do they do to look after and protect their mental health?’ 

This is a really unique opportunity for you to gain some advice on coping in the demanding and, at times taxing career you are about to step into, so make the most of it!

 

What is their experience of the multi-disciplinary team approach? Is it important?

Undoubtedly your supervisor will be able to talk to you about why the MDT approach and its various team members are so important to delivering holistic patient care. 

They will also probably be able to give you specific examples as well. If you ask, they may even be able to arrange for you to sit in or shadow other health professionals. 

I would definitely ask your supervisor if this is possible because a good understanding of other health professional’s roles is important for your interviews. Doctors don’t work alone, and interviewers will expect you to appreciate and understand this.

 

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected their job / the NHS / medicine / public health?

You will probably have already thought about this yourself and may have prepared answers for it for your interviews. However, it is always worth asking as you will gain specific insight and maybe some ideas you have not thought about.

Different specialities in medicine have been affected differently by the pandemic, so it could also be worth asking how they think their experiences compare to those of colleagues in other specialities. 

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