Even after having set aside the time you need to fulfil the requirements for your next attempt at applying for medicine, you’ll still have ample time at your disposal to pursue absolutely anything. This article will focus on the pros and cons of the most common things done by medical students during their gap years.
a) Getting a Healthcare Assistant (HCA) Position
In the NHS, healthcare assistants generally work with doctors and other healthcare professionals to provide services such as making beds, providing patient care, processing lab samples and sterilising equipment.
Most importantly, there is a lot of opportunity for patient interaction, which will be invaluable at medical interviews as well as in solidifying (or questioning) your decision to pursue a career in medicine.
b) Volunteering as a Carer
If you don’t have enough experience to gain a position working as a HCA, you might need to volunteer for a period of time as a carer to build some experience. Working as a carer can be both rewarding and mentally demanding; you’ll be privy to a very sensitive side to healthcare as the work here generally involves dealing with patients at latter stages of their lives.
When it comes to volunteering, getting a position is probably going to involve reaching out to several local care homes/clinics as well as looking at online vacancies. It’s important to remember not to be disheartened if places don’t get back to you or say no. Eventually, someone will be willing to give you a chance and at the end of the day, this will make you appreciate the experience that much more.
c) A Regular Job
Working a regular job outside of healthcare is an excellent way to spend your gap year and is generally self explanatory; here, it’s crucial to have a good CV designed to maximise your chances at landing a position. Although it may not seem all too relevant when it comes to applying for medicine, you will be surprised to find out how much interpersonal skills and professional attitude you can develop from a regular job.
Furthermore, being able to reflect on your experience, speak about what you’ve learned and discuss how you think it will make you a good medical student and future doctor, will help you stand out in the crowd of applicants with similar backgrounds.
It’s not hard to see the draw of travelling abroad on a gap year - it will definitely be a while before you’ll have as much time to do something like this again and it’s an exciting thought. If you’re financially able and plan it well, it can be an amazing experience you’ll be glad to have had. It’s likely that being pushed into new environments will force you to grow up and make smarter, more informed decisions.
This will be beneficial in both applying for medicine as well as in your career as a doctor. On the other hand, you might find it more beneficial to save the money you make and choose to travel in smaller diets later which is perfectly fine too. Italy will always be there, if and when you decide to make a trip of it.
e) Volunteer Schemes Abroad
There are several programmes offering volunteer packages aimed at building a substantial CV. These are available in almost every country and in a range of fields including agriculture, childcare support, teaching, etc.
Undoubtedly, the opportunity to go abroad and help others is going to be an extremely gratifying and humbling experience but there are a few factors to consider here as well:
f) Expand Your Interests
It’s almost ironic when you consider that while medical schools love all-rounded applicants, finding the time to dedicate to activities outside medicine becomes infinitely more difficult once you start medical school. While entirely possible, the reality is that medicine is a very demanding course and that it will take some time before you’re able to find a sustainable work-life balance let alone pick up new hobbies on the side.
Taking the time to consider other interests during your gap year allows you to dive into new things before the workload hits and once it does, will offer an escape into an enjoyable activity. Take an online course, set a goal to read 100 books, learn to paint, start a blog, do whatever it was you wanted to do but previously didn’t have the time for.
At the end of the day, regardless of how you choose to spend your gap year, a successful applicant will be someone with the ability to reflect on their experiences to prove their motivation and aptitude for a career in medicine. It almost doesn’t matter what you do as long as you can demonstrate what you’ve learned and how you believe the experience has had a positive influence on your future in healthcare.
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