HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF CLINICAL PLACEMENTS & WORK EXPERIENCE

By Chidera Ota
At medical school, it can be tempting to spend your time in the library or at your desk, writing out notes, memorising mnemonics and getting through your pile of ‘must-read’ textbooks. However, it’s important to not take any time you have in hospitals, on the wards, for granted; these can actually be incredibly effective learning environments, if you approach them properly. While these tips are geared towards medical students, they are also useful for premed or school students, looking to make the most out of their work experience! Try some of the tips below, to make sure you get the most out of any clinical attachments…

  1. Practice Your Skills: at Cambridge, the university I attend, we don’t spend receive any clinical skills teaching until our 4th year, and you can often feel overwhelmed by the sudden barrage of new information. The best way to get the most practice of these new skills, is to help it on the wards. Shadowing a healthcare assistant or nurse will help you get a great variety of exposure. 

  2. Find A Mentor: finding a more senior doctor to help guide you through applications, help your with research, and give advice on your career is incredibly helpful, especially if you have some idea of the specialties you’re considering. The most natural way to meet, and build a bond, with a mentor is on the wards. They will be able to see your commitment and drive, by watching you work, making them more likely to want to work with you, or help you, in future.

  3. Patients Can Reinforce Learning: most students are used to learning from books, however diseases are often much more memorable if you see a patient, or witness symptoms in person. It is particularly useful to follow patients for periods of time, to help you learn about the natural history, and different ways of managing, a disease.

  4. Prepare For The Future: taking on extra responsibility, on ward rounds for example, is a great way to prepare for the steep learning curve as you transition from student to qualified doctor. Offering to write in notes or clark patients, and getting used to the responsibility you will have after graduation, can smooth this transition.

So there you have it, my tips for making the most out of your time in hospital! I hope you’ve found this useful.


Chidera Ota is a 5th year medical student at the University of Cambridge who runs a YouTube channel and blog, giving tips and advice to students applying for medicine. For more tips and and advice…

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