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Writing an application

Your one-stop shop for all things application related!

You Can Be A Doctor:
Application Guide

Preparing for Applications

So you've decided you want to study medicine at university and you've know what it entails. How do you ensure you have the best possible chance of getting in? Preparing early! 

One of the most important things in your application will be clinical work experience and non-clinical experience.


Universities will want to see that you have demonstrated that you understand what a career in medicine means (through clinical work experience), and that you have the skills to do it well (non-clinical experience). 

Clinical Work Experience

What is Clinical Work Experience?

Clinical work experience is your opportunity to step into the world of healthcare and see what it's really like. It's like an internship that allows you to get hands-on experience in a hospital, clinic, or doctor's office.

Here's what you can expect from clinical work experience:

  1. Observation: You'll shadow doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals as they go about their daily work. It's a bit like being a medical detective, watching closely to understand how they diagnose and treat patients.

  2. Interacting with Patients: You'll have the chance to talk to patients, listen to their stories, and learn about their health conditions. This not only helps you understand medical challenges but also improves your communication skills and empathy.

  3. Assisting the Team: Sometimes, you'll be asked to help with various tasks, such as taking vital signs, preparing equipment, or ensuring patients are comfortable. This gives you a taste of what it's like to be part of a healthcare team.

  4. Learning the Ropes: You'll discover the inner workings of healthcare facilities, like how they keep records, maintain cleanliness, and coordinate patient care.

This experience is like opening a door to the exciting world of medicine. It's a chance to witness the teamwork, dedication, and the impact healthcare professionals have on people's lives. As you gain more exposure, you'll get a clearer picture of whether a career in medicine or healthcare might be the right path for you. It's an excellent way to start your journey toward becoming a doctor, nurse, or any other healthcare expert.​

There are three main types of clinical work experience:

  • Hospital placements (where you will shadow specialists and see what happens in 'inpatient' care. 

  • GP placements (where you shadow GPs and see how patients are treated in their communities)

  • Care home placements (volunteering) 

Top Tip: Length of Work Experience

The length of work experience isn't particularly important, but you'll get the most out of things if you spend:

  • 1 week in both hospital and GP placements

  • 3-6 months in care home work placements (once a week as a volunteer)

Why is clinical work experience important?

Medical schools really care about clinical work experience - and you'll need to lean heavily on your experiences in both your personal statement and at interview to:

  • Demonstrates that you actually understand what being a doctor is like

  • Show that you have reflected on the skills required of a doctor (communication, empathy, problem solving, scientific understanding) - and demonstrated that you have or can develop these. 

Organising Work Experience

Work experience is not always easy to organise, particularly if you don't know where to begin. Hopefully we can help you obtain experience in all three types mentioned above. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been more resources created to provide work experience virtually - these can be a great alternative if you're struggling to organise something or you have other commitments which would make spending a week on work experience difficult. See below for more details!

Step 1 - Identify possible placements

Begin by making a checklist - prepare to be ignored or rejected by many of the potential placements you will be contacting, unfortunately they may have many people asking to do work experience and just not have the capacity to accommodate everyone! 

Suggestions to begin:
  • Search for all the local GPs nearby - note down contact emails or telephone numbers. 

  • Think about specialties you find interesting (i.e. cardiology, surgery etc.) and find the names of several doctors in nearby hospitals - they are usually listed on the hospital websites. Note down any contact emails or secretary telephone numbers. 

  • Search for local care homes and again, note down contact emails telephone numbers.

Please note: work experience applications in Glasgow are now run through a central system to increase the fairness of opportunity to applications. Please see the link below for further information.

Also, check out our own virtual work experience developed during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Alternatively check out the Royal College of General Practitioners 'Observe GP' virtual work experience: 

Step 2 - Get in Touch

Begin by making a checklist - prepare to be ignored or rejected by many of the potential placements you will be contacting, unfortunately they may have many people asking to do work experience and just not have the capacity to accommodate everyone! 

Top Tip: Emailing potential placements
  • Start sending emails out as early as possible

  • Download our email template below if you're not sure how to word it!

  • If you have time constraints, make sure to specify when you'd be available

  • Remember to send a follow up email if you haven't received a reply after a week! 

  • People tend to check their emails early in the morning so to make sure yours is at the top of the pile - send yours out early or late at night. 

  • If you're really having trouble getting through or you haven't had a response - try and give them a phone call (or if it's a GP/care home, go in person and speak to a receptionist who might be able to help!) - sometimes things work better when face to face!

Step 3 - Whilst on placement

Now with the hard part out of the way - you can enjoy yourself! However, it is essential to remember that work experience isn't just for fun - it will provide a whole load of things to talk about in your personal statement and interview - which is why our biggest piece of advice is to reflect reflect reflect! 

Top Tips: Making the most of placement
  1. Turn up on time and appropriately dressed

    • Make a good first impression!

  2. Ask lots of questions - no question is silly:

    • Find out more about who you're shadowing​, how they got into medicine and the specialty they're doing, what they love and hate about their job! 

    • If something is happening and you don't understand - ask! 

  3. Keep a work experience diary - download our template below! 

  4. Reflect, reflect, reflect:

    • What did I see: maybe you saw a nice interaction between a doctor and a patient, or some good teamwork between doctors of different specialties​

    1. How did it make me feel?

    2. What was good about it? What was bad or could be improved?

    3. Why did things go well? or why did things go wrong?

    4. What can I learn from this? 

    5. How will I change my future actions after seeing this experience?

  5. Keep an eye out for examples of the essential attributes of a doctor:

    1. Communication and empathy​

    2. Academic ability and scientific knowledge

    3. Problem solving

Non-Clinical Experience (Extra-curricular activities)

Non-clinical experience refers to anything that you might do outside of work experience and school that demonstrates some of your positive attributes. Remember that medical schools want rounded people and not just people who are great academically. This is your opportunity to develop or show off some other skills you might have!

We've created a log of extra-curricular activities where you can see all the attributes that the Medical Schools Council look for in applicants to medicine. Here you can list things you've already done as a reminder for when you come to write your personal statement and before interview. Alternatively, it might provide some ideas about things you can try and get involved in to demonstrate your skills! 

Download: YCBAD Extra-curricular work 
Use the log we created to help link your extra-curricular activities with the skills and attributes what medicals want to see you can demonstrate.
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