The weather is getting warm, the flowers are blooming and the winter coat is getting put in the back of the wardrobe – spring is here! With summer exams looming and so much revision to get through before then, it can seem crazy to be planning the summer, but I hope in this blog to persuade you why now is the time to start.
I have frequently spoken in previous blogs about the importance of going the extra mile as a student; the best Oxbridge candidates have much more to offer academically than just A*’s in their exam results. During the interview and selection process, the colleges are looking to find students who have gone above and beyond to expand their scientific or medical horizons. For this month’s blog, I will focus on Medical students, for whom some sort of shadowing or practical experience is almost a prerequisite the summer before their final year. The admissions committee wants to see that potential students have experienced medicine first hand, including the excitement and thrill of treating patients, as well as the stresses and emotional burden it carries. Now you may be wondering how on earth you can secure such an opportunity over the summer. There are several suggestions I’d recommend:
Start by talking to your school. Your school’s biology teachers would have supported medical student’s applications in the past, and they might already have existing relationships with doctor’s practices or local hospitals.
Family and friends. Ask your parent if they have any friends who work in medicine. Remember, while it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to shadow a doctor or surgeon, it is also fantastic experience to work with nurses as well as other hospital support staff.
Talk to your own doctor. Go visit and ask your local GP about opportunities to shadow and/or work in the practice. They too went through the same process you are currently going through, and normally they are very happy to help students.
Ask your local hospital. Again, many hospitals will be used to such requests and some may even have formal summer programs to accommodate students.
These experiences are a very important part of your exploration of medicine and what a future career in this field will entail. However, don’t become fixated on having to shadow the most prestigious surgeons in the field! Many of them are unable to accommodate shadows or have extremely limited availability, so do cast your nets wide and start the process early. The earlier you start asking, the more likely you can secure a place with a doctor, nurse or practice before they all get booked up!
Some additional options to consider would also be exploring opportunities at ambulance or first aid organisations (St. John’s Ambulance springs to mind) where you can gain some practical emergency medicine skills. In addition, most students initially opt to shadow GPs and surgeons, but there are a host of other specialties to consider as well, including radiologists, oncologists, dermatologists etc. So start by making a list of preferred specialties today, then get calling and emailing to secure your place as soon as possible!