In this series of blogs, medical students and medicine offer holders share and explain their personal statement so that you can learn from our experiences and reflections. Tom is a medical student at the University of Bristol.
Disclaimer: Please do NOT be tempted to use our personal statements as a model/foundation/plan. UCAS is very strict about plagiarism, more information can be found here.
Please remember that there is no such thing as a model personal statement. By definition, it is supposed to be unique and there is no "golden formula".
A career in medicine promises lifelong learning, the opportunity to make a difference and to be consistently challenged on an emotional and intellectual level. I aspire to be part of, then leading a multidisciplinary team, while maintaining the patient contact I have enjoyed during my work experience and to not only study and practice medicine, but to progress far within my career, becoming a consultant surgeon.
The aim of this paragraph was to show why I wanted to go into medicine. I show insight into the roles of a doctor, and the positives of going into the career, as well as acknowledging the negatives. In hindsight, I feel that I could’ve shown knowledge of what challenges I might face when I say, “consistently challenged on an emotional and intellectual level”, as this is an important realisation that Universities will want their students to be well aware of. The other aim is to draw in the reader with something catchy but not too cliché, which I feel I did well. Stating aspirations (“becoming a consultant surgeon”) can show dedication and knowledge of the journey of a doctor, however, may also indicate naivety, so use carefully. Looking back, I would’ve just said “becoming a consultant”, indicating that I am open to all aspects of medicine and all specialties.
As part of my Gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award, I went to India for two weeks to shadow doctors in a Delhi hospital. I spent time in the operating theatre and emergency departments, observing brain surgeries, Caesareans and the emergency resuscitation of a young lady. One thing I found interesting was that the doctors in emergency took turns in presenting about a different common condition and the treatments available, in order to ensure that each doctor's knowledge was up to date and extensive, which seems similar to how UK doctors stay up to date by following NICE guidelines.
I spent the bulk of my personal statement talking about what I had learned and gained from work experience, as this is what Universities want to see. I chose this experience to show I had learnt about the role of a doctor in not just treating, but as a teacher and student for their whole career. I chose to link this back to the British health system, showing off my knowledge (role of NICE - National Institute for Health and Care Excellence). As I didn’t utilise or develop any soft skills during this experience, I chose to show off these with different experiences below. In hindsight, I would like to have gone into more detail about watching the doctors work together with nurses, anaesthetists and technicians in surgery and the emergency department.
NOTE: Overseas work experience is by no means necessary, there are plenty of opportunities within your own country and online to reference in a personal statement, very few medical students will have done something like this.
By volunteering at a dementia care home for the past year, I have realised how important a holistic approach can be in improving the welfare of the residents. I felt truly rewarded while reading a book to one of the residents and to see her spirits rise for the duration of that afternoon. The experience brought home the importance of considering the emotional wellbeing of a person and how it can be just as important as their physical wellbeing. I will never forget that moment, as it filled me with such pride to have improved this lady's day which further set in stone my aspiration to do the same for other patients as a doctor.
I took the opportunity to show off knowledge of medical care (e.g. holistic care and emotional wellbeing) and how this is important. I also used this experience to further develop why I wanted to go into medicine, as there should only be one main reason – a desire to care for people. It also showed my emotional maturity as I can demonstrate compassion and empathy.
To gain an insight into the healthcare profession, I work as a Pharmacy Advisor and have gained an NVQ Level 2 equivalent in Pharmacy Services. I converse with customers and patients to assist with their minor ailments and continue to feel the same sense of responsibility each time I assist someone. It pleases me to know I have helped someone's welfare by utilizing my academic and interpersonal skills in tandem with each other to ensure the best patient outcome.
I used this experience to show off my ability to converse well with patients and people less knowledgeable than myself. This is an important skill as a doctor to help a patient understand their treatment, which boosts success rates by increasing the likelihood that a patient adheres to treatment plans (patient compliance). By choosing to work at a pharmacy it has shown my desire to gain an insight into the healthcare system. In hindsight I feel that saying I had gained an appreciation for all the different roles in healthcare would be a good point to add in regarding the pharmacy.
A similar experience has been tutoring younger students on a weekly basis. This has required me to adapt my vocabulary to ensure that I use appropriate terms in order to not over complicate the topic or intimidate the student. I wish to further develop this skill throughout medical school as it will be essential in future consultations, to not confuse patients by using medical jargon.
The main aim here was to talk about my work experience and everything I have learned from it. I made sure to include references to extra-knowledge such as NICE and holistic care, to show my interest in the medical profession as a whole. I made sure to talk mainly about what I took from the experiences, as opposed to just describing them, which tells universities that I am capable of self-reflection, which is strongly encouraged for medical students and doctors alike, leading to an improvement in care. I make sure to show examples of many important qualities, such as an ability to communicate well with patients, a desire to learn new things, team-working and professionalism.
As a keen drummer for over 10 years, I have played in multiple bands in which self-discipline and communication are essential in order to succeed as a team. These have been further enhanced by playing cricket since a young age, in which camaraderie within the team plays an important role in the success and overall morale of the team.
In this and following sections, I chose to focus on non-medical experience that has provided skills that are applicable to medicine. I have listed relevant skills such as self-discipline, communication and camaraderie which are all vital for good teamwork – probably the most important of the doctor’s soft skills – and made sure to back them up with relevant evidence. In hindsight this would be a great opportunity to show how these can be used as stress relief when work gets tough in the future, as all doctors will need ways to destress and process difficult moments.
I have recently enjoyed the intellectual challenge of designing a working machine for GSK as part of an engineering project with five other students. We worked as a team to explore ideas, eliminate possibilities based on risk and other factors, and to decide on a final process. Each member has a different set of strengths and therefore working on different areas has allowed us to design a prototype and led to our success at the regional Big Bang science fair. Through this, I have earned the Gold Industrial Cadet award, a Gold Crest award and I look forward to progressing to the national Big Bang final next March.
I used this experience to display my ability to work in a multidisciplinary team, through a scientific process to develop a successful outcome. This is useful to show because it means that I can act on the theory knowledge that I have demonstrated previously. I decided to mention the awards I gained as they are quite difficult awards to obtain and so might help me stand out.
I also recently took over leadership of the Aspiring Medics group at my school which has been satisfying to know I will be passing on lessons and discussion topics on medical ethics and other topics, along with advice on their application, which I myself have benefited from greatly.
This shows a desire to teach and assist others, as well as a desire to further my knowledge, something I thought was important to show. It also showed my ability to lead, which is something doctors must have the confidence to do. The experience itself is quite unique and helped me to stand out.
Ultimately, I believe all of this combined with three A's in my internal exams prove I possess the intellectual and interpersonal potential needed for university and for later life as a doctor.
I used this as a closing sentence to summarise why I thought I was a great consideration. It felt very arrogant, however you need to be in personal statements to gain attention and showcase yourself.