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  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    United Kingdom

    Query about work experience w/out science a-levels

    Hi everyone,

    This is my first post on the forum, so hello! I am a soon-to-be English graduate hoping to apply to medical school in a few years. I am going to sit my A-Level in Chemistry next year (or as soon as affordable), but have been highly engaged in the arts for my time as a student, due to my course and related commitments, so I was wondering whether if I could get some advice/ hear some of your experiences of getting placements for personal statements without the 'proper' A-Levels.

    I am going to contact local hospitals, surgeries and hospices to do shadowing and volunteering, but I wonder how any fellow arts-grad medics found the experience of shadowing or similar work without the right A-Levels? Did it fill you with a lack of confidence, and how did you bypass this (i.e. did you pick up a few science A-Level books in preparation, or would this be of limited help)? I don't know whether you thought the knowledge acquired from A-Level would be of limited use in those situations anyway...? I was personally considering starting out with hospices and charity volunteering first before attempting something in a hospital or GP.

    (I should add, though, that perhaps I haven't been that unengaged from the world of medicine - I have been heavily involved with the medical course at my university and some of its schemes for the past four years, reading about medical issues, news, and debates almost daily in my spare time, and even been practiced on hundreds of times as an OSCE patient - so perhaps I shouldn't worry too much about a lack of knowledge?)

    Any advice, suggestions, and experience would be much appreciated. I appreciate that I might have the completely the wrong idea about everything so I would love to hear from you. Thank you!

  2. #2
    Senior Member Zedd's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Well, if you have absolutely no scientific knowledge or ability to interpret procedures then you might struggle to follow what's going on in certain areas. In general though I don't see why it would stop you, I mean it's not like they'll ask for your clinical opinion. Just listen, ask questions, be attentive.
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  3. #3
    Junior Member Armadillo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    I am an arts graduate, but I also took science A levels. I wouldn't worry about your gaps in knowledge as far as gaining experience goes. You sound genuinely interested in medical issues, news and debates. I've found that the knowledge I've acquired through reading is more thought provoking than most of my A Level content. That said, you might enjoy buying some Bio/Chem/Physics companion textbooks as these usually have real life application sections which will be relevant to medicine. Where do you plan to work when you graduate? I am working as a Care Assistant in a Care Home which has increased my confidence organising volunteer work/shadowing as I have acquired skills and developed qualities relevant to a medical career. Good Luck
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2010

    I don't think there is an issue with scientific knowledge for work experience.

    Opinions will vary but I feel the main objective of work experience is to show that you know what you're getting yourself into and that you like being around patients and helping them (even if you only help in a very small way). It certainly isn't about "learning medicine" as that's what medical school is for.

    Personally, I'd go for long term volunteering over shadowing as you're likely to spend much more time with patients and be able to get stuck in. It should show your commitment in a way that a few weeks shadowing can't really hope to do.

    What courses are you looking to apply to? As a graduate, are you sure you need to do A levels?
    UEA 2013 - (hopefully) 2018

  5. #5
    Member Maria87's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    I totally agree with new2newmedia.

    The main purpose of undertaking work experience (in my opinion) is not to gain medical facts but to try and figure out for yourself whether you are suited to a career in medicine, i.e. whether hospital/ward environment is suitable for you, whether you enjoy interacting with patients and work as part of a multidisciplinary team, whether you enjoy learning about the wonders of the human body (because that's what you will be doing for the rest of your life) ... etc

    Good luck!

  6. #6
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Nowhere special
    I'd say experience can also be about providing you with a contextual basis that will be useful for you in a medical career. It's different for everyone really. If your experience is professional, long-term, paid work, then that probably is what it's going to be.

    From the sounds of it, you've been involved with the medical community for a while and you know the subject is something that piques your interest and you find the professional environment stimulating. Don't get too hung up on trying to prove this; I'd say you're there already. The best work experience you could get could be to diversify your knowledge and try to get a broad experience of how the health service works - maybe try PALS as a means of getting a patient's perspective. If you could get paid experience to develop some clinical skills, that would be helpful as well - phlebotomy and HCA jobs are useful routes in, or even just care assistants at a nursing home. Always helps to learn a touch of humility and make sure that you can handle the parts of medicine that put you in touch with your emotional and squeamish sides!

    I think you actually presented yourself quite well in your original post. You clearly have a strong interest in medicine and have demonstrated this in the long-term and it's developed quite naturally. More of the same or a bit of diversity can only improve this. Scientific knowledge is not going to be a factor they assess when looking at your PS or interview, so don't worry about that. They will want to see however that you understand the scientific and technical aspects of being a doctor that distinguish it from nursing and the human element that distinguishes it from other scientific professions. You show that and link that to your incentive to be a doctor and you'll be fine.

    Good luck.

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