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Author: Raeesah Jusab

4th Year Medical Student

Medical School Students

How to make the most out of your medical work experience?

Due to COVID-19, the field of Medicine has had to adapt. From wearing masks and PPE to social distancing and remote learning, medical placements certainly feel very different to the usual.

You may think that it will be difficult; however, I hope this article will help you get the most out of your medical work experience! And remember, these tips apply for online work experience as well.

The first impression

First impressions are extremely powerful. Ensuring you arrive (or join-in if your experience is an online one!) promptly, appropriately dressed and display enthusiasm will stand you in good stead for the rest of your placement. It is also worth trying to get to know people’s names and roles as soon as possible; you never know who may offer their help along the way!

Ask people questions, who they are, how they got there; the better you know your team members, the more confident and comfortable you will feel and the more you will be able to get involved. I feel this is the secret to being ‘proactive’ and ‘using your initiative’. This way, you will hopefully get a lot out of your placement.

Ask questions

As I mentioned above, ask people questions! Things can often be very busy and sometimes a little stressful, but if you’re not sure what is happening, there’s usually someone there to help.

Moreover, Medicine is recognised to have its own language of sorts. Whether someone has had a ‘triple A’ or needs an ‘ABG’, there may be terms you are unfamiliar with – don’t be afraid to ask.

Get a realistic view on Medicine whilst on placement

One thing to mention is that Medicine in real life is often not like we see on TV shows; our understanding can be a little distorted, and this is why it is important you get a realistic view whilst on placement.

That’s not to say that it is not an amazing profession, but it has its low points as well as high points. This is why it is useful to speak to the team you will be working with, as I mentioned previously.

Ask them what their role is, why they chose their speciality, what they like/dislike about their job. Getting these personal insights into the lives of healthcare professionals will help you have a better idea of what it is like to work as one.

Keep a diary

Whilst on your placement, you will see things and do things that you may not have before. This makes it all the more important that you document and reflect so that you can really get the most out of each experience.

I would highly recommend that you keep a notebook with you at all times whilst on your placement. Whether it’s an interesting patient you saw or an exciting procedure you observed, jot down a few of the key points you learnt so that you have something to look back on later. However, make sure to maintain patient confidentiality; this means no names or identifiable features!

The importance of diaries and reflection

As a fourth-year medical student, I have begun to appreciate the importance of reflection and documentation. Medicine is reflective practice and revolves around the idea of self-growth and bettering yourself, so you can be the best doctor you can be.

It is only on looking back on experiences that we truly develop an understanding of what our strengths and weaknesses are. I appreciate that at your stage, the main purpose of your placement will be to learn how the field of Medicine works. But it’s never too early to try and think like a medical student!

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Speak to patients

Patients sometimes get bored in hospital. This is your chance to cheer them up a little whilst also gaining an insight into the patient perspective – this is essential for any doctor. If you’re not sure who to speak to ask a staff member to recommend an interesting patient and go and have a chat with them!

As a medical student, you will learn that the way you speak to patients becomes sort of an art form and good communication is an essential skill for any healthcare professional.

Finally…Enjoy!

Having the opportunity to get involved in healthcare is one to be cherished, and for most of you, this may be one of your first experiences in medical practice. Medicine has its highs and lows, which I am sure you will appreciate, but Medicine is amazing! To conclude, I hope you enjoy and learn a lot from your work experience.

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