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Ultimate Guide – Reflecting on your Work Experience Correctly

11 minute read

 

What is reflection,  why is it used and how can it help me with my application?

Reflection. It’s a key skill for a Doctor to have, it facilitates learning from clinical practice and improvement to clinical practice from said learning points. Doctors create portfolios detailing experiences from their practice. This is where they do their reflections. Reflection is not meant to be crammed, it is something built up over time allowing for development of a detailed insight into medical practice. In the case of Medical School applications, creating a work experience portfolio can be a valuable tool when reflecting on the experience. it should be updated daily after work experience and referenced regularly when preparing for interviews. 

Summary of this section

1. Reflection is a tool used daily by doctors

2. Reflecting on your work experience can help you to gain new insights into the experience

How can I reflect on my work experience effectively?

Reflecting whilst completing the work experience

Reflect, reflect, reflect! It’s essential to show that you have learnt from your work experience. By the time of your interview, it is likely that you’ll have completed your work experience several months ago. Reflecting after work experience each day will ensure that key details and learning points from it are not forgotten. In order to reflect, a table like the one below may help. Updating this table daily will give you a great bank of examples to draw upon at interview and help you gain the most from the experience at the time. Having your reflections recorded in a clear and concise manner is essential as it’ll make revisiting them prior to interviews a simple process and you’ll be able to see exactly what you’ve learnt.

Author: Cameron Elsworth

Author: Cameron Elsworth

Manchester Medical School

Date and location Specific example How it made me feel and why What qualities did this demonstrate What I learnt about a career in medicine Questions I had following the experience

24/08/2019

Local Hospital

I spoke to an elderly patient for one hour who hadn’t had any visitors for a week Sad for the patient; I speak to my family and friends daily – it must be difficult without anyone familiar to talk to

Empathy

Listening

Non-verbal communication

That it is important to show kindness when treating patients as a doctor may be one of the only people a patient speaks to

How is can loneliness in the elderly be reduced?

How can loneliness affect mental health?

Developing questions and finding answers to them following work experience is a great way to show your own curiosity and desire to learn about medicine. If you can demonstrate this during interview it’s certain to impress universities.

Summary of this section

1. Write down what you see on your work experience, so you don’t forget!

2. Reflect on what you see

a. Show what you learnt

b. Show evidence of further study after the experience

 

How can I write and record my reflections? 

Initially, it is helpful to record details of work experience in a table such as the one above as this simplifies the information and ensures all details are collected. When reflecting further, tools such as the Gibbs reflective cycle can be useful as they help you think about different elements of the experience.

Note: the table and Gibbs reflective cycle is just one example of how reflecting on work experience may be done! Don’t be afraid to adapt either of them to your preference if it helps you create better reflections. Remember these are YOUR personal reflections so choose a way that suits you!

The Gibbs Reflective Cycle

The Gibbs reflective cycle (outlined below) is a useful tool when it comes to reflecting on experience. It breaks experiences down into six sections, drawing new elements of reflection out at each section. The cycle begins with a description of events and ends in an action plan. I find the Gibbs reflective cycle extremely useful for understanding my emotions (feelings), what I learnt (analysis) and what I’d like to know for future reference (action plan) in relation to my work experience. 

How to use the Gibbs reflective cycle – example

This example breaks down how I personally would use the Gibbs reflective cycle. Some elements of the cycle do seem quite similar; however, they all have their own role when reflecting on experience.

Element of reflective cycle

Notes

Description

Whilst volunteering on a hospital ward, I observed a healthcare assistant feeding a patient who had suffered a stroke. The patient had paralysis to the left side of their body and had trouble swallowing. This meant they required assistance feeding and needed their food pureeing.

Feelings

This experience made me feel sad for the patient as it was clear they had lost some of their independence

This experience made me think how I would like to be treated if I had a similar stroke. I would like treatment to help me regain my independence as much as possible

Evaluation

This experience was positive because it helped me to understand the role of a healthcare assistant – a member of the multidisciplinary team. It was also positive as I was able to see first-hand how strokes can affect patients

I did not get an opportunity to speak to the healthcare assistant about how they found performing this element of their role.

Analysis

I observed one of the duties of a healthcare assistant. I learnt that there role is centered around supporting patients whilst they’re in hospital with activities of daily life (eating, washing etc)

I saw that strokes can paralyse patients and affect bodily functions such as swallowing

Conclusion

I could have asked the healthcare assistant about how they felt about performing this aspect of their job.

Action plan

Next time I would do as stated in the conclusion

I need to clarify the role and duties of a healthcare assistant fully

I want to understand why strokes can present differently and to different degrees between different patients

I want to understand how a patient can recover from a stroke and what rehabilitation is available in a hospital

Using reflections when preparing for interviews

It is useful to group examples from your work experience in relation to categories listed by universities which will be tested during interview. This will help you prepare best for interviews as you’ll have examples showing exactly what the university is looking for. This is also another opportunity to reflect on your experience. Reading back on the experience for a second time may provide fresh insights into it.

It’s important to be specific with examples during interview “I learnt that it is important for doctors to be empathetic because when the doctor I observed empathised with patient x on my work experience when discussing their depression, I observed the patient’s body language relax and they were much more comfortable discussing their depression. It is clear to me that empathising with a patient can make them feel far more comfortable” sounds better than “it is important for doctors to empathise with patients because it helps them relax”

The table below uses examples listed on the University of Manchester’s website of categories which they test for at interview. After you’ve grouped examples into categories listed by the universities make up some practice questions and ask others to test you on them. If the universities don’t list any tested qualities use those listed in the NHS constitution, those listed in medical projects guide on what makes a great doctor and anymore you may have yourself.

 

Category tested Experience
Ability to communicate e.g. “when have you relied on non-verbal communication?” Asking a deaf patient what they would like from the hospital menu card
Previous caring experience e.g. “how have you made a difference during your work experience?” Volunteering at a care home – specifically having weekly conversations with an elderly resident, at the end of my work experience they said how much they appreciated my time and interest I had taken in them. 

Summary of this section

1. Be specific with examples from your work experience when questioned – it gives much better answers!

2. Categorise your experiences into qualities from the NHS constitution, qualities listed by individual medical schools and those you think a good Doctor needs

a. Make practice questions based on these categories

b. Practice answering these questions – be careful not to sound too rehearsed though!

 

Remember: when discussing work experience at interview you should say what you learnt about yourself and others, what qualities you demonstrated, what you learnt about the role of a doctor and why. Not just what you did during the work experience.