Work experience is an essential part of your medical school application. You will need to talk about it in both your personal statement and in subsequent medical school interviews. By undertaking work experience, you’re showing medical schools a level of commitment necessary for a successful medical school application. And GP work experience is a great way to show that commitment.
In this article, I will discuss GP medical work experience specifically, how you can organise it, the different types available, and what you should gain from your medical GP work experience. Hopefully, this will mean you find it easier to organise and 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 when you come round to organising your own medical GP work experience!
GP Work Experience – Summary
- You need to be 16 or older to do work experience in a GP Surgery
- You need to apply to as many places as possible
- You still can observe the multi-disciplinary team approach
- Reflection is the most important thing about your placement
- Some GPs may be GPSIs and give you more insight
How can I get GP work experience?
There are many constraints on applying for GP work experience – all exacerbated by the current COVID-19 pandemic.
You need to be over 16
You have to be 16 years of age to be able to do work experience in a clinical environment. So this includes work experience in a GP too, and this is the case for most volunteering opportunities too. Suppose you are a summer birthday like me. In that case, it is definitely worth lining things up (such as applications, interviews etc.) in advance for when you turn 16 so that you are as least disadvantaged as possible. You can always submit applications to GP practices with the disclaimer that you will only undertake the experience when you turn 16. Make sure you have a good CV and letter prepared, which explain who you are, any qualifications you have gained, any relevant volunteering experience and why you want to volunteer or undertake experience at this GP practice.
You might need to send a few reminder emails as doctors and admin staff in GP surgeries are very busy people! If you’re finding it hard to get a response, it can be worth trying to meet them face-to-face or contacting them via telephone as this can make it easier to coordinate, and you’ll be able to arrange the work experience more quickly. Don’t feel embarrassed or too shy to do this – I would wait a week, but if you haven’t heard a response by then, there’s no harm or shame in sending a friendly reminder email.
It can be good to think of where you would ideally want to get some experience, but work experience is so hard to arrange that I would try hard to stay open-minded. Apply to as many places as possible, and take advantage of every opportunity you can. After all, GPs all have such varied practices and see such a range of patients and problems that whatever GP practice you end up in, you are bound to see interesting things to reflect on.
Try as many places as possible
Keep calling and emailing different surgeries if you keep getting rejected. The GPs are usually very busy, and a lot of them simply may not have time to take on a medical work experience seeker.
What can I expect to get out of GP work experience?
Community health care work experience is just as valuable as hospital-based, and your supervisor might have more time to help teach you. This can mean that you learn more and gain more patient contact interactions that you can talk about in your personal statement and interviews.
Observe the multi-disciplinary team approach
You may think that because you are not doing work experience in a hospital setting, you will not get to observe the multi-disciplinary team approach (something that is very important to include and reflect on in your medical school personal statement and interview). This is simply not the case!
You will find all kinds of different health professionals working in the GP practice, including registered nurses, specialist nurses, physios, health care assistants, pharmacists, midwives and more! If you do have the opportunity to shadow one of these professionals, or even better, sit in on a meeting between different professionals to discuss a patient or a joint-led appointment, make sure to go to this and observe this collaboration firsthand and how impactful this is can be on patient care.
Online GP Work Experience
Online GP work experience can be a very valuable addition to your Medicine application. You still get to interact with the GP, and it’s more likely that the GP will have more time to explain what is happening to you. Exactly like with the in-person GP placements, it’s more about how you can reflect on what you’ve experienced rather than the length of the placement.
Have a look at our GP Live course, where you will take actual patient histories, form diagnoses, order tests & scans and suggest treatment plans. All from the comfort of your own home.
The most important thing about your work experience isn’t quantity but how well you can reflect on it. I would recommend keeping a journal where you can write down thoughts about events and interactions as they happen.
Some people prefer to do this as a blog, but however you choose to do it, do not include patient names or any information that should be kept confidential.
Don’t just write about what happened. Make sure you’re reflecting all the time on things that inspired you, the impact of interactions and procedures on the patients and their quality of life and anything you found interesting. Keep your reflections patient centred but also make sure to reflect on the reality of the profession, the importance of all members and team working. It’s really worth reflecting on your work experience as it happens, as it makes writing your personal statement much easier, and it means you will have something to look through and reflect on before your medical school interviews.
What are the different types of GP work experiences?
Different GP practices, and indeed the GPs within them may have special interests and services they offer. As such, one person’s GP work experience may differ vastly from another person’s.
Indeed, some GP practices run GUM clinics that involve sexual health, and these can be really interesting to observe, as the skill required to communicate sometimes sensitive and difficult information and legal requirements are great to see first hand and reflect on.
Other GP practices may perform minor surgeries or even do things like basic emergency Medicine, especially in a rural setting. In advance, it’s useful to know if there are particular GPs within a practice who run certain clinics or who are GPSIs (GPs with special interests who have undertaken additional qualifications about a particular area of medicine). This is because you can then make sure, if you’re interested, to arrange to spend time shadowing this particular GP and observing something a little more niche.
GET YOUR GP