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. Alisha is an undergraduate medical student at Nottingham 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".
I recommend giving yourself plenty of time to write and draft your personal statement as you may find that it will change a lot from the first draft to the final draft. Make a list of all the things you have done and want to include in your personal statement and write some skills or qualities that you have demonstrated by doing these things and link them to medicine e.g. teamwork and communication.
Get lots of people to check it because they will all find different things that you can change. You don’t have to change everything but listen to what they have to say, and if you want to, then you can change it. At the end of the day, it is YOUR personal statement so don’t make any changes that you are not happy with and don’t change the wording so it doesn’t sound like you.
My Nan's death from sepsis sparked my interest in medicine as I questioned how bodies work, why they fail and how doctors diagnose, treat and help patients recover. Medical school would further my scientific enthusiasm and give me a platform to integrate my social skills and capacity to work hard to benefit patients and improve their quality of life.
I opened my personal statement stating how and why I became interested in medicine. It is important to have a genuine reason as you may be asked to elaborate on it further in an interview. If you have a personal reason, make sure you can speak about it without getting emotional as this could make you appear unprofessional and you could be spending time in the interview talking about things which make you appeal to that medical school! I then went on to explain why I wanted to go to medical school and mentioned some of the qualities which I felt I had and had spoken to doctors about which qualities were important to possess as a medical student and doctor.
On my work experience, I spoke to doctors and made a list of the key skills that are required to be a medical student and doctor. I then tried to match up things that I had done with the kills, as you can see below:
By undertaking three weeks of hospital placements I gained a realistic view of the NHS and the value of a caring multi-disciplinary team approach. I observed seamless teamwork during a caesarian section due to clear communication. Time in A&E demonstrated the challenges and problem-solving situations faced by doctors and the satisfaction when patients' and families' anxieties are relieved. I noticed how a paediatrician adjusted his approach to suit the different children in order to establish bonds. I put this into practice during my 6 months volunteering at a School for the Autistic. I learned that by being empathetic, patient, spending time talking to and gaining the trust of children, I helped build their confidence. Communicating with compassion, persevering and showing resilience when working with a speech impaired boy resulted in him being less quiet and engaging in activities which gave me a great sense of achievement. This also enabled me to enhance skills which I will use as a doctor. I observed a GP empathetically tell an elderly patient he had lung cancer. His honest, respectful discussion of the patient's concerns and management of his condition highlighted to me the positive effect of careful, sensitive explanation and reassurance for patient care. The patient's distressed response showed me how the elderly are emotionally and physically vulnerable. I decided to read A. Gawande's 'Being Mortal' further considering the value of ethics in end of life care.
Here I would mention a skill e.g. working in a team or communication, and then explain how I had seen it and noticed the impact it had on the patients. I then went on to demonstrate how I had used such skills in my volunteering or extra-curricular activities. You must explain how you observed the doctors/ healthcare professionals you were shadowing and what you learnt from them as opposed to simply listing qualities.
I also found that by reading books written by doctors, I could learn more about what they do on an everyday basis which can be different from what you will see on work experience. Reading is also a good way to learn about being a doctor if you have not been able to get any work experience.
I was fascinated by the physiology of a lamb's heart following a dissection and inspired by this, I organised time in a cardiology unit which stimulated me to write an epidemiological essay about coronary heart disease. My research developed my ability to assimilate information and extract key findings - vital skills I saw used by today's busy doctors with heavy caseloads. As head chemistry prefect, I led assemblies and science clubs improving my public speaking and organisation skills. I have witnessed these key skills being utilised when presenting cases in meetings and ward rounds.
The scientific basis of medicine is a key part of medical school and I wanted to show my interest in science. Here, I had done a heart dissection at school, then I spent time in a cardiology department as I found the dissection interesting. I enjoyed my time there and became interested in coronary heart disease, so undertook a research project about it. If possible, try to do a project, EPQ or extra research on an area of medicine/ condition that you are interested about, either from school, work experience or that you have read about. This shows that you are motivated and keen to learn more about medicine in your spare time.
Having read the New Scientist and attending medical lectures I gained a deeper insight into the ongoing global issues facing modern medicine (e.g. antibiotic resistance). I inferred from an article on robotic surgery that technology can reduce human errors, make clinical practice efficient and shorten patients' recovery time yet a doctor's human touch is irreplaceable. A day spent with a MHRA Medical Assessor increased my awareness of the role industry plays in medicine and I am determined to keep up to date with advancements to benefit patient wellbeing.
If you have not been able to shadow a doctor, there are many other healthcare professionals or doctors in different settings (not just in a hospital or GP practice). Try to get in touch with people from different backgrounds and you can meet them by attending careers fairs or going to university open days. I found it interesting to learn about the different pathways you can go down after qualifying as a doctor and completing some training.
Having been a dedicated County badminton player, I qualified as a coach teaching and motivating community members at local clubs. Here, I honed my skills of good time management, planning and organisation. In my jobs at Waitrose and at several charities, I have shown my versatile nature by supporting a diverse range of customers and teams. By leading teams, collaborating with others and working under pressure I have shown that I can remain calm and adapt in difficult situations to achieve positive outcomes.
Most people applying to study medicine will have a strong academic background and will have done some volunteering and work experience. I used this paragraph to showcase some of the extra things I had done during my spare time. I enjoy sports and decided to take it to the next level by doing a coaching course and here, I learned new skills which I had mentioned earlier were essential for being a doctor. By doing sports or other hobbies, and by working shows that you have a life outside of medicine and that at medical school, you will not be overwhelmed by the workload and have appropriate means to socialise and deal with stress.
In my gap year, I intend to volunteer at a Blind Orphanage and hospitals in India and travel. Healthcare staff highlighted the realities of a medical career such as working unsocial hours, the physical demands and emotional impact involved. However, the immense job satisfaction outweighs this. I am confident that my personal attributes and broad skills will ensure I will be a diligent medical student and professional, privileged to be able to improve patients’ lives.
I took a gap year so lined out my intentions for the upcoming year. I wanted to do something medical-related, so I had a better idea of what a career in medicine was like, especially in different parts of the world. However, I wrote my personal statement early in the academic year and new opportunities arose, so my plans changed. Do not worry if this happens, as it shows you are flexible and able to adjust to different situations, and you can talk about this at interviews!
My personal statement ended with me showing that I understood the difficulties of going into a career in medicine but justifying why I still wanted to go into it. By showing a realistic opinion of the career, it shows that you have seriously considered your future and have a genuine interest and passion for the field- something that all medical schools want to see!