Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. A lot of the answer isn’t based on a pro forma tick list, but in understanding and proving your motives both to yourself and the medical schools you apply to.
Firstly, any experience is good experience. Many students find that after a few days in a clinical setting they know that medicine is not for them, and that’s completely fine! Much better to find out early on than at a later date.
Secondly, if you can’t get extensive experience in exciting areas that is also fine, not everyone has extensive family connections and people in the know- medical schools appreciate that.
Now, having said that, here are some options for you to look into, and try to gain experience in. These are broad categories, but each area is worth considering.
General Practice: Good to gain an understanding of common clinical conditions, the work done in a community setting and the importance of good communication skills.
Hospital Medicine: This covers a large spectrum of areas such as cardiology, respiratory and rheumatology. The key here is to appreciate how patients present from the community and how hospital medicine differs from that in the community. A big thing to look into is the multidisciplinary team and how it works.
Surgery: Often difficult to get into at a young age. What’s interesting is the broad spectrum of diseases that can be investigated, managed or even remedied through invasive intervention.
Other areas of interest include any medical setting such as a pharmacy, care home or alternatively shadowing healthcare workers such as physiotherapist’s, nurses, health care assistant’s etc.
While these are some broad categories to look into, there’s one thing that I believe to be essential, and that is volunteer work. This work would preferably be in a healthcare setting but doesn’t need to be. The reason this is essential is because it shows sustained interest and commitment. This is vital knowledge to the medical school, as medicine is a long course which puts a lot of demands on you. To be able to demonstrate this commitment to the medical school will put you ahead in your personal statement and give you a lot to talk about at interview.
Finally, this brings me to the key message I have regarding work experience, and this is that your exact experiences matter little, as does the quantity of it. What is important is your ability to reflect upon and learn from the work experience you gain as it is this which you should be emphasising in your personal statement.