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. Will is an undergraduate medical student at the St George's, University of London.
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".
From playing with my toy stethoscope and wrapping my grandad up in bandages, to the humbling experiences I have had whilst volunteering with Headway (a brain injury rehabilitation centre), my interest in medicine has evolved from childhood play to adult commitment. Through a variety of experiences I have become fully convinced that medicine is the path for me.
The opening paragraph is always the hardest. Here, I decided to start off with a personal anecdote to introduce myself and where my interest in medicine came from, before outlining the content to follow. My advice is not to worry too much about the opening as you will change it 100 times and nerve be totally happy. If you find it hard to start, leave the opening until the very end and use it to outline the content of your statement.
Over the past year, at Headway, I have spent time with people who have suffered brain injuries or strokes and have witnessed that all patients have their own individual needs. This has helped me to develop my communication skills and be empathic - key attributes of any doctor. During my time on the Neurology ward I have witnessed the more demanding side of medicine. These patients suffered brain trauma which affected their speech, movement and mental health. It was my job to interact and engage with them, and to carry out activities to help improve their cognitive functions. I learnt that explaining things in different ways with patience and sometimes humour, is vital, and a key skill for a doctor to have when explaining procedures or diagnoses. As a school Science Prefect, I have used this skill when mentoring younger students during lessons and at a weekly support group.
Here I reflected upon my experiences while volunteering, I linked it back to key qualities of a doctor as outlined in the NHS Constitution and Good Medical Practice. It’s important to reflect all the way through. What you learnt and how you can apply it is more important than listing what you did!
During my long-term placement at a local GP surgery, I have undertaken telephone reviews to evaluate whether patients aged 75 and over are at risk from frailty. This task taught me to make important decisions in a clinical setting, such as calculating frailty scores, then referring the patient to the GP if they were at high risk. A calm tone of voice and polite manner were skills that I developed and I became aware that communicating effectively and confidently with the elderly is an increasingly important skill for tomorrow's doctors, due to an ageing population. Whilst shadowing a GP, I saw the need to vary the way patients are dealt with dependent on their concerns, age and emotions. I also witnessed the diverse and varied roles of allied healthcare professionals and the importance of teamwork, which has been valuable in my job at a local pharmacy. This job has given me confidence to deal with patients that have concerns, often of a personal nature. I have learnt to remain calm, approachable, professional and maintain confidentiality, especially in difficult situations
Teamwork is one of the most important things to be able to demonstrate if you want to be a doctor, as is clear communication – you’ll see that these are recurring themes in my personal statement. Don’t just list these qualities though – keep it personal and relate it to YOUR experiences.
In my role as a cricket coach, something I've been doing since 2010, I have demonstrated an ability to interact with a variety of ages especially younger people. This role includes devising drills and games that are fun as well as helping the development of young cricketers. Through captaining local cricket teams I have enhanced my leadership, teamwork and organisational skills, whilst also pursuing my hobby.
Here, I quoted ‘since 2010’ because I wanted to demonstrate my commitment, another thing that universities like to see.
The treatment and care of the patient as a being and not just their medical condition is the common goal of all healthcare professionals; I relish the prospect of working individually whilst also being part of a wider team of professionals, that complement each other in working towards this goal.
Medicine is about holistic care – you have to look after the patient and not just their ailments. Here I mention this to demonstrate my understanding
My interest in how the body works has been boosted by studying elements of anatomy and physiology in Biology. I am intrigued by the idea of human intervention when something goes wrong. The book 'Complications', by Atul Gawande has given me an given me an insight into the life of a surgeon, emphasising the need for both perseverance and lifelong learning for medics.
Medicine is a heavily science-based degree, so here I’ve shown ‘Will the scientist’. Don’t get too caught up on showing yourself as a scientist though, they much prefer seeing you as a people person. In addition to this, don’t’ list all the books you’ve read – they don’t care as the books are not about you! Reading shows that you are developing your interest, but it’s very passive and showing active development (via volunteering for example) is much better.
I believe I have the ability, drive and attributes required to succeed in medicine and would welcome the opportunity to pursue a career which is challenging, rewarding and patient-centred. The prospect of studying at great depth and the continued personal and professional development due to the ever-changing nature of medicine is something I look forward to. The fact that no two days are the same excites me and makes me determined to work in this profession.
The conclusion was something I found very hard to write, and I still wasn’t overly happy with this one, but it’s the best I came up with. I tried to reflect on myself and medicine, and why I’d be suited to it. My final piece of advice is to start writing your personal statement early, as you have time to chop and change. The 4000 character limit caused me all sorts of problems, so be prepared to chop it down and be unable to mention everything you want to!