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7 Reasons to Take Part in a Medical Gap Year Project

7 Reasons to Take Part in a Medical Gap Year Project main image

Guest post: Kevin Dynan

All of the theoretical knowledge in the world doesn’t quite prepare you for the fast-paced, demanding work in the arena of medicine. With this in mind, here are seven reasons to consider a medical gap year placement.

1. Get relevant experience

While most traditional ‘work experience’ programs are relatively short, international medical placements expose students to work experiences for a longer period. Working with small teams that are required to be multi-disciplinary will broaden your knowledge and practical skills. Learning about foreign healthcare systems will provide you with a deeper understanding of patient experience and the context of different legal healthcare structures.

2. Encounter different illnesses

Venturing to a new country means you will encounter an array of new illnesses and unfamiliar clinical presentations. Being exposed to new treatments, techniques and medicines means you have the opportunity to pick up knowledge and skills that you may not have acquired back home.

3. Discover a new field of interest

Many medical gap year placements offer the opportunity to shadow various roles, so you could discover an area of work you hadn’t previously considered. It’s often the case that students start out with a particular specialization in mind, but later change their plans when they discover a previously unthought-of option.

4. Boost your job prospects

It seems a clear choice between two candidates; both have the theoretical knowledge of their chosen medical field, but one has applied work experience. Having more comprehensive experience will make you a more attractive applicant. As well as relevant skills, there are also the transferable skills such as leadership, the ability to adapt, allocating resources and other non-clinical requirements you will have acquired.

Embarking on a medical gap year project is also a great networking opportunity. Do a great job and you will be remembered. The professionals you work with will be able to provide fantastic references for future studies and career progression, giving you another clear advantage over classmates or colleagues who haven’t embarked on medical gap year projects.

5. Learn to think on your feet

Many students who undertake medical gap year placements say they feel more confident using clinical judgement, as the lack of expensive technical equipment forces them to hone their judgement. This confidence is a highly valued skill.

When in developing countries, there is no comfort blanket in the medical facilities available, and often very little time to think. You will become accustomed to making quick decisions, communicating effectively with colleagues, trusting your instincts and becoming familiar with clinical assessments. Being thrown in at the deep end and fully immersing yourself in the surroundings will broaden your knowledge, sharpen your intuition and hone your skills.

6. Soak up a new culture

Immersing yourself in a new vibrant community can be an ultimately life-changing experience that affects ongoing education and training.

Working in medicine, it is likely that you will come across a huge range of people; by completing a placement abroad you will increase your awareness of cultural and socio-economic factors as well as your understanding of medical practices and care.

In short, the medical sector is about providing care, and by increasing your cultural awareness you will broaden your ability to treat patients from all populations with the utmost care and respect. Wherever you choose to work after graduation, you will be well-equipped to work with a diverse population.

7. Gain a fresh perspective

I think that we can all relate to hitting the ‘Why am I doing this?” wall. When studying for a medical career, it’s extremely easy to become overwhelmed by the intensity of the work, and at times it’s hard to see the big picture.

Witnessing healthcare professionals function in developing countries with basic equipment and amenities often cements a student’s passion for their chosen medical career. It redefines their drive and provides a sense of purpose which often stays with them long afterwards.

Kevin Dynan is the managing director of Global Medical Projects, specialists in arranging worthwhile medical work experience placements for pre-university students, students in their vacation, students on their electives and qualified medical personnel.

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