Medical School Interview: Work Experience
- Tell me about the work experience that you’ve undertaken.
- What surprised you about the medical profession during the work experience you did?
- What parts of your work experience did you enjoy the least, or find the most difficult?
- What parts of your work experience did you enjoy the most, or find the most stimulating?
- How did you organise your work experience? Did you find it difficult to organise it?
- What did you find most impressive about the doctors that you shadowed or their abilities?
- Can you tell me why it’s so important that medical students undertake a range of work experience?
- Where would you have liked to have secured additional work experience? I.e. what environment do you feel that you have not yet experienced?
How to Approach Work Experience Questions
A poor answer might be as follows:
‘I really enjoyed shadowing an orthopaedic surgeon, as I was able to see two interesting operations – a hip replacement and the treatment of a patella that was causing the patient pain. Both were really high-paced, and the atmosphere in the operating theatre was exciting.’
Note that this student fails to expand on the meaning of what they have seen, or how it might affect them and their desire to study Medicine. They provide some detail of the operations, but this doesn’t make their answer any stronger. Likewise, words like ‘interesting’ or ‘exciting’ will not furnish your interviewer with any idea of your strengths or personality, or show that you have truly considered what you saw.
A good answer might be:
‘Whilst I didn’t expect it to be a highlight, I found the oncology MDT meetings that I was able to attend to be the most enjoyable part of my experience. The level of communication between both doctors and other healthcare professionals, the manner in which each was able to show their expertise and explain this expertise to others in a way that they could understand, and the clear empathy shown to the patient – even though they were not there – throughout the meeting reinforced what attracts me to Medicine. That is, the chance to become an expert, an able communicator, a teacher, and someone who founds their practice on empathy.’
This answer highlights something slightly less ‘run-of-the-mill’ – an MDT meeting. It then goes on to examine exactly why the experience was interesting, rather than simply stating that it was – communication, expertise easily explained, and empathy. We can then understand that each of these factors has been considered by the student, and that each is important in their own desire to study Medicine. This seems a mature answer from someone who has given true thought to their career choice.
Therefore, when answering consider: what motivates you to study Medicine? What have you seen that illustrates those desires? How can you connect your desire to your experiences and reflect on them? If possible, try to include correct terminology and phrases as well – speaking like a medical student will illustrate the extent to which you have already researched the field.
Tips and Techniques
i) If asked about something interesting, try to choose a therapy or event that illustrates something profound about the career, rather than simply one that was exciting or interesting at the time.
ii) Ensure that your answer shows a significant degree of reflection – on your own character traits, and on the field of Medicine itself and the traits it requires.
iii) Consider linking events together to show the range of your experience.
iv) If asked about a negative event or impression, ensure that you phrase this in a context that shows you will learn from it, and that it could have been improved. Do not be overly negative about doctors or work that you have seen – try to pick up on small details that might have been done better.
v) Ensure that you show an awareness of why work experience is important – Medicine is tough and you must fully research it in order to make sure that you will enjoy it, and that it is the correct vocation.
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