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Author: Edward

4th Year Medical Student

Why Reflection Is Important For Your Medical Journey

Can you get medical work experience during lockdown?

In attempts to reduce the number of people in hospitals, medical students have had placements cancelled, the number of visitors to hospitals has been reduced, and unfortunately, this has also resulted in cancellations of work experience.

Although this can induce panic in those that don’t have the experience or worry that they won’t have it before they start their UCAS, do not worry. Medical schools will have to take this into account when selecting students. Also, this will not affect only your application. Most students around the country will be in a very similar situation.

As the application process needs to be as fair as possible and access to work experience is not accessible to the same degree for everyone. Therefore, medical schools will have to take into account all of this when considering applicants for medical school. SO, DON’T worry.

However, if you want to gain some exposure to obtain an insight into a caring profession, develop skills to prepare for medicine, or have experiences to talk about and reflect upon for your Personal Statement or at interview, the article lists some viable alternatives.

How to get medical work experience during lockdown

Here is a list of a few ways to try and gain work experience during lockdown restrictions.

1. Virtual medical work experience

Perhaps the best way to get medical work experience nowadays. There are various courses that are fully online, so you do not have to go anywhere. The only thing you need is your PC or tablet and internet connection. The doctors dedicate their time just to you, so all your questions get answered, and you will get as much attention as you need.

Some great examples are:

GP Live

Think you have what it takes to be a Doctor? Well, now you can actually become the GP. You will take actual patient histories, form diagnoses, order tests & scans and suggest treatment plans.

Ward Round Live

The UK’s only virtual hospital ward experience. Students will see real cases and can now talk with our patients, discuss each case and get feedback from our NHS Doctors.

Virtual Work Experience Week

This course is a week-long online course covering all the preparation elements a student needs when applying to medical school. Experience, Insight, Entrance Exams, Interviews, Personal Statements and much more – All covered.

Clinical Skills Course

Our clinical skills course is a great hands-on course that can be added to your CV and personal statement. The clinical skills course also gives you a head start for your first year of medical school.

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Ward Round Live

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Ward Round Live – The UK’s only virtual hospital ward experience

2. Medical books and podcasts

Books can help give you an idea of the talking points around medicine, e.g. “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande. They can help provide an idea about the extreme pressures that a doctor can be under such as “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi, “Do No Harm” by Henry Marsh or “This is going to hurt” by Adam Kay.

Literature can also help understand certain biases in medicine such as “Bad Science” by Ben Goldacre or “The Optimism Bias” by Tali Sharot. However, if you just want to fuel your fascination for medicine “The Hot Zone” by Richard Preston, “The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat” by Oliver Sachs.

3. Reach out to online Balint groups

Healthcare professionals have set up Balint groups to encourage staff to reflect about patients, events or issues they have encountered in the workplace. They can help workers who are struggling with particularly stressful events and offer individuals with different points of views from various staff. It is an open-discussion between staff about a particular event. Balint groups are a brilliant form of reflection and can help expose you to the reflective process. Contact individuals who run local groups by following this link:  

https://balint.co.uk/find-a-group/   

or contact your local hospital to see if you can join one.   

Hopefully, there is one near yourself and would be happy for you to attend. However, I am unsure about restrictions. The topics can sometimes be sensitive, so please do not feel disheartened if they are strict about who can attend.  

4. Reach out to healthcare professionals: current doctors, current medical students, and nurses

This can help to discuss important issues facing healthcare workers and get an accurate depiction of life studying as a student or working in a hospital in a multi-disciplinary team. This type of career advice is great to supplement any reading that you do as it helps provide a depiction of the typical day to day life as a medic.

5. Chat to care homes and hospices

This will help you to recognise that social care is under extreme pressures. Especially since care staff are often less supported than staff in the NHS, e.g., they receive less PPE when compared to hospitals. You should talk to staff, and they might direct you in to ways that you could volunteer for them during covid-19 perhaps remotely or even when restrictions start to loosen.

6. Collate a reflective journal about how clinicians have adapted and changed their practice

This can help you understand how different disciplines have had to adapt their practice. It can help perhaps see a difference in the way teams work together. But also understand how, as clinicians, we need to adapt our practices to ensure patient safety, e.g. GP practices using telemedicine appointments.

7. Help support at-risk neighbours and combat loneliness

Even if it is just walking a neighbour’s dog or helping with shopping, altruistic acts like these have significant application to medicine. You could even help those with a chronic condition by assisting them to get their medications from pharmacies. It is also important to reach out to lonely people. The strain that the current pandemic and lockdown will have on mental health will be unprecedented and making sure that people have someone to talk to is so valuable.
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/loneliness-in-the-elderly-how-to-help/

8. Volunteer for charities   

There have been a lot of statistics about the effects of lockdown on mental health. Charities such as Mind or Samaritans are looking for volunteers. This might be limited for under 18s, but Mind has the youth voice network to help give a platform for young people’s mental health. Help to support the homeless and food banks during covid-19 is also vital as food bank donations have massively depleted in recent weeks.

Therefore, there are many volunteer groups such as in the Manchester NHS volunteer helping hands that look to support healthcare workers in jobs such as babysitting their children or helping with shopping.

9. Tutoring

Schools are closed, and this could disadvantage children from obtaining the education they deserve. Teaching is vital to medicine, and by teaching, you can exhibit that you have a firm grasp of that subject. Therefore, it would be great to help children and parents by offering any tutoring services even if it was an hour a week.

Medical Projects also offer tutoring sessions. Our sessions allow you to speak with a Doctor or current UK Medical Student. You can get professional advice on any aspects of the medical school application process, or medical career path you would like advice or additional help. The sessions are conducted in a 1-on-1 format.

10. Fundraising

With stereotypical fundraising tactics such as bake sales have become nearly impossible, people have innovative ways to raise money. For example, the 99-year-old walked the length of their garden. Or the 91-year-old who knitted a reconstruction of an NHS Nightingale hospital. Charity donations have gone down significantly due to reduced income from charity shops and donations from street fundraising. Now is a vital time to try and raise money for those who need it.

11. Start a new service

Caring is an admirable job, but it is so impressive when someone has recognised a problem, set up a service and actioned it. Starting your project can be a lot of work, so make sure you are supported. However, it can be impressive on an application.

Currently, care homes are struggling; therefore, contact local care homes and ask to support residents and staff. There are many examples of services you could set up. For example, set up a companionship scheme where you speak to a resident over the phone or help to deliver entertainment such as performing a live concert to a care home with different students at your school.

This could also be a fundraising activity. Perhaps try and work with hospital charities to support patients discharged from hospital ICU. Time spent on ICU can be a very traumatic time and significantly affect a patient’s mental health.

12. Reflective journal on the Covid-19

The journal could cover reflections of relevant news journals of the pandemic, focus on how it has disrupted your own life and your family’s, or you could follow perhaps the effect on a neighbour or a patient with a chronic disease with the permission of that person of course. A journal will also be a useful exercise for interview preparation as it will provide talking points and help you have a clear timeline of the pandemic events, which is easy to lose during this time.

Final thoughts

It is not easy to obtain work experience during this time when you are under 18. However, it can give your application an edge over the other applicants.

Different universities prefer different types of work experience. Look at university requirements and perhaps contact admissions of the universities.

Ward Round Live – The UK’s only virtual hospital ward experience
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