In this series, medical students and medicine offer holders share and explain their personal statement so that you can learn from our experiences and reflections. Lily is a medical student studying at Liverpool University.
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".
Until the age of sixteen, I had been focused on a future career as an optician. However, during a work experience placement in ophthalmology, I was inspired by the ease with which doctors cared for patients with sight loss, both medically and holistically. It was this experience that made me want to become part of this fulfilling vocation.
Wow this makes me cringe when reading this back. I tried to start differently and truthfully, not the usual about always wanting to be a doctor. It’s good to use this paragraph to introduce your primary motivation for studying medicine.
To learn more about the role of a doctor, I organised work experience placements in gastroenterology, urology and respiratory medicine in three different hospitals. I observed multidisciplinary team meetings, which introduced me to the members of the wider team and the importance of communication in patient care. Attending ward rounds made me appreciate how important organisation and clear documentation is. Shadowing a GP highlighted the challenges of obtaining a focused medical history and the pressure to make informed decisions under time constraints. In every placement, the doctors’ unfaltering motivation and genuine interest in their patients highlighted how rewarding the work was, however challenging, complex and stressful it may sometimes be.
It is good to stress that you organised the work experience placements yourself, as this shows resilience and commitment – important traits of a doctor. It is also important to explain what you learnt from each placement. Your personal statement is about you, so there is no point listing what you saw other people do and not reflecting on this. I also wouldn’t waste your word count on listing the hospitals that you went to, some of the departments that you observed would be good enough. Be prepared to be able to talk about something that you learnt from each department that you’ve written about at interview. I was asked at one interview “what was the most interesting case you saw in Ophthalmology?”. Most importantly you should show how these experiences furthered your desire to study medicine.
Volunteering as a housekeeper on a geriatric ward for fifteen weeks has shown me the less glamorous side of medicine yet has been enjoyable and worthwhile. Conversing with patients and noticing the positive impact it had on their day was particularly rewarding. I served meals and helped feed the more dependant patients, which inspired me to apply for a six month hospice placement. Here I assisted the nurses with patients’ personal hygiene and progressed to answer call bells by myself. I enjoyed working in a fast-paced environment, where flexibility to adapt to the changing needs of the patients was essential. Working with terminally ill patients has shown me that there are limits to medicine, and it is important to proactively plan for the end of a patient’s life and consider patient and family wishes. Listening to relatives has shown me what an influential position doctors are in and how important it is for them to act with integrity.
Again, I was not advised to use my small word count on place names of where I had specifically volunteered but was told to write how long I had volunteered for. This shows commitment and dedication, which is important when studying a long and difficult course. I wrote about what I did in each placement to try and show that I displayed qualities of a doctor, such as good communication skills. I also added what this taught me about the role of a doctor.
Attending a Royal Society of Medicine lecture taught me that a career in medicine offers immense diversity and the opportunity for lifelong learning and personal development. I find this exciting and want to learn from, and hopefully contribute to, medical science. Always keen to learn and question things, I arranged to observe postmortems which showed me anatomy beyond my biology syllabus. Another key aspect of a medical career is teaching, and I am keen to develop this ability already. I am employed by my school to tutor GCSE science and maths. This has taught me to take difficult concepts and communicate them simply and succinctly, which is equally important as a doctor when communicating with patients.
This was my academic paragraph. The point of this paragraph is to try and relate your A Level subjects to wider reading. I also wrote about my tutoring job, as teaching is a very important part of being a doctor.
Outside of academia, I have a job at a pharmacy. By working with the general public, I have learnt the importance of an approachable, warm manner. I enjoy keeping active by competing for Hertfordshire in athletics competitions and I plan to continue this at university. Using my experience, I volunteered to manage and train the U15 boys athletics team. Leading the team, I recognised the importance of maintaining morale and delegating to suit the boys’ strengths. I was awarded the sports leader award for my district. I have also won awards at dance competitions, including Most Outstanding Performer. As a vocational graded dancer, I volunteered to teach a dance to children with learning disabilities. The joy and sense of achievement this gave to the children was extremely fulfilling.
This paragraph was to try and show that I’m an all-rounder, this is basically your bragging paragraph! However, it’s vital to relate your experiences back to the qualities of a good doctor, such as strong leadership skills. I was also told to mention that I would continue my extracurriculars at university, as this is giving something back to them. It is good to show that academia is not your whole life, as being a medical student/doctor is stressful, so they like you to have something else you are passionate about to de-stress.
It is evident that as a doctor one is presented with many stresses and challenges. Nevertheless, I would love to be part of a vocation that thrives on the development of empathetic relationships centred around patient care. Crucially, I feel that I have the motivation, resilience and determination to keep my professional knowledge and skills up to date, and to offer and provide the best care to my patients.
Here I tried to summarise up the important points of my personal statement. This is the lasting impression you are leaving on the admissions tutors, so you want it to be a good one!