How to include your work experience in your personal statement?

Some say that in life ‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it’. Whilst that might not be the best thing in all situations, it definitely applies in the case of work experience. And where better to flaunt your hard-earned work experience than in your personal statement?

Work experience has become such an integral part of the application that you probably wouldn’t even consider applying without it. But once you’ve done, got it under your belt and moved on, how do you showcase this in your personal statement? This is actually a very good question and different people will tell you different things. Many people will tell you to dedicate a whole paragraph of your statement just to this, simply listing how much you have done and how long you have done it for.

MSAG Top Tip: Don’t do this.

Here at the MSAG, we have a clear structure and formula of how to include your work experience in your writing to highlight skill set in the best way possible. For more advice on other aspects of the personal statement, check out our blog series on the topic.

Completing work experience has become a crucial part of applying to medicine, with some medical schools wanting to know exactly how many days were spent at each placement. With all these specifications on types and lengths of experience, it’s often quite easy to lose sight on the point of actually shadowing doctors. That is to find out a little bit more about life like as a doctor, decide whether you like it enough to sign up for it and if you have the makings of a doctor in you. Therefore, when it comes to talking about your work experience, either within your personal statement or at the interview, it’s always worth coming back to this most basic reason.

What You See is What You Get...or is it?

During a typical work experience placement, you get an insight into the world of medicine through observing:

  • Patient histories and examinations  
  • Diagnostic tests such as scans or blood tests
  • Decisions about a patient’s treatment, which can be either done as a doctor on their own or in larger team meetings
  • Operations
  • Doctors working together
  • Doctors interacting with patients
  • Doctors working with other members of the multi-disciplinary team such as nurses and physiotherapists

The list goes on and on and on…

So this is great. You’ve got the work experience but how do you talk about it. Funnily enough, this is actually something that many students struggle with. How do you go about including the laundry list of experiences that you’ve completed during the summer before applying in your personal statement? You only have 4000 characters, how do you use them effectively to convey the wealth of experience that you’ve gained, whilst showing off your extra reading and other achievements?

Admittedly, it will make for quite boring reading if you simply spent 4000 characters writing a list of all things you’ve seen in your work experience. More than this though, it wouldn’t tell the reader much at all about what you’ve learned from those experiences and how you’ve subsequently developed your application to medical school.

Observations about a career in medicine

Think back to your week’s work experience. What does it show you about what a career in medicine would be like? See if you can answer some of the questions below with your experiences?

  • Name a good thing about being a doctor?
  • What are some of the pressures that doctors face?
  • What is the training like for someone wanting to specialise in surgery or general practice?
  • How does a Junior Doctor working at a hospital spend their day?
  • How does a General Practitioner or a Consultant spend their day?

These questions are easily answered after observing a clinical environment and speaking to some of the staff working there. Commenting on some of these aspects in your personal statement will demonstrate that you have some insight on what life is like as a doctor and shows that you have a realistic understanding about the profession. Within your personal statement, you can use your experiences at placement as an example of your knowledge. For example, whilst at work experience at your GP practice, you may have noticed that they are limited to 10-minute slots to see patients.

Therefore, when it comes to talking about some of the challenges that doctors face, you can first mention the importance of time management in medicine and use this example to further your point.

While it is important to highlight all the positives of a career in medicine in your personal statement, it is also great to talk about some of the harder aspects. Right, I know what you’re thinking – that’s slightly counter-intuitive! Why on earth would you talk about the worse parts of the job when you’re applying to this profession?! Well this actually shows a great amount of maturity and understanding about the profession and nailing this part of the statement could actually help to set you apart from the crowd! By talking about this in detail, you show that you are aware that this isn’t easy profession, but you are still dedicated to it. The icing on the cake is the then talk about how you are equipped to deal with these problems.

For example, you could talk about the high-stress levels that you observed while on work experience. If you then go on to talk about how you currently deal with stress in your day-to-day life such as playing a sport or a musical instrument, you are showing that you are aware of a real problem in medicine and equipped to deal with it! Ticking boxes left, right and centre…

Keep it simple

Hopefully after reading this blog post, you have a better idea of how to incorporate all that experience you’ve witnessed into your personal statement. The key is to find opportunities where it can be used to prove a statement or observation that you make and go from there. Don’t forget that the MSAG team are available to help with your personal statement either through our one-on-one tutoring or through our review service. We also have a host of other blog posts dedicated to giving you further guidance and advice on your personal statement.

More resources on medical work experience:

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