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7 skill-musts for your Medical School Personal Statement
The UCAS website describes the personal statement section of your application as your chance to describe your ambitions, skills and experiences – of course, in a concise format. This article aims to provide golden nuggets of guidance, to ensure you’ve check-listed all you need to produce an offer-giving personal statement. Let’s get to it!.
Key point. Ensure your personal statement is tailored to the medical schools you’ve chosen. What qualities has the medical school described on their website? Some medical schools also provide information on what they expect within your personal statement… use these treasured resources!.
Personal statements are most commonly rejected when the applicant lists all the incredible work experience they have done, with little indication of what they’ve learnt, and how it would prepare them for medical school and beyond..
When applying, you’re applying to be a doctor – a future job. So, to make your personal statement catered to the qualities of a doctor, it’s imperative to look at the different duties of one. The General Medical Council have put together a guide on what it means to be a good doctor – the good medical practice guide. Containing four main domains: knowledge skills and performance, safety and quality, communication partnership and teamwork and finally, maintaining trust. Have a read, incorporating where you’ve demonstrated these qualities in your personal statement. This guide is also an invaluable resource when preparing for the situational judgement section of the UCAT (UKCAT)!
Below is a list of attributes to include in your personal statement. Aim to list as many examples and experiences of your own that could demonstrate these skills… and don’t fret if you can’t come up with something for everything initially, ask those who know you to help you fill in any gaps. Bear in mind, there will be experiences demonstrating several of these skills at once! If you would also like to get your hands on a resource to help you with this, access Kaplan's free eBook on aptitude tests and acing personal statements, in collaboration with UniMed.
And once you've written you personal statement you can send it to us for a professional personal statement review.
Effective communication skills are key, including the capacity to adapt language appropriately to a situation. Remember, listening skills are important and overlooked communication skills. The capacity to listen and take in others’ perspectives essentially demonstrates empathy. Giving an example instead of stating you are empathetic, demonstrates this skill far better! Have you or do you work in a customer facing environment? Working in retail for example, requires you to be patient with difficult customers, but also tend to their needs. This is done by considering their preferences when discussing their options – the practice of shared decision making, and necessary for a healthy doctor-patient relationship!.
Team work! Team work! Team work! The importance of the multidisciplinary team is essential in your personal statement, and it certainly doesn’t have to be an experience within a clinical environment. Where have you had to take lead? Leadership skills go hand in hand with team work, specifically the ability to work co-operatively with others. Remember, as a leader, you appreciate the team’s individual skills and opinions, placing them in roles that allow them to demonstrate said skills well!.
Another key personal skill is the ability to operate under pressure – all medical students and doctors do it, countless times, everyday! Your personal statement should provide examples which demonstrate initiative and the resilience to cope with setbacks and adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. How have you dealt with a situation like this previously? This example may also demonstrate the skill of problem-solving and decision-making – the ability to think laterally and logically!.
Efficiency in high pressure environments, requires an individual to be organised and prioritise their own work. Preparation, punctuality, self-discipline and delegation are all methods to achieve this. This skill works wonders when written with those extra-curriculars; mention how you cope and ensure you’re at your best during Monday’s rugby training, Thursday’s piano classes, weekend swimming and acing those numerous exams!
Doctors and medical students are required to have a flexible approach to work; adapting and working with employers to deliver improved patient care. When have you worked an extra shift to help a team member out, or when the department was short-staffed? Have you worked night shifts previously? 12-hour shifts? Mention this resilience!
A doctor is continually teaching colleagues in different specialties, and the rest of the multidisciplinary team too. Have you volunteered to tutor younger years with their Science and Math? Taught a sport? Or helped teach a musical instrument? This skill may show an ability to effectively communicate medical topics with both patients and colleagues.
Although an obvious one, most applicants understandably don’t have this skill to include in their personal statement. Any easy one is to mention any basic life support or first aid training courses you’ve attended! During your work experience, did you assist in any bedside observations, i.e. take blood pressure readings? Observe venepuncture and clinical examinations conducted by nursing and medical staff?
Manual dexterity is invaluable as a future doctor, particularly a future surgeon! …How precise are you with your hands? Do you play the violin? Have a secret love for painting? Clinical judgement is also an essential skill; think of examples when you’ve been required to make decisions and manage risk. Particularly times when you’ve prioritised and sought help when needed.
Commitment to improving quality of patient care:
Generally missed by applicants… But works wonders for those who choose to include this skill! Audits are something doctors are required to do throughout the year, therefore demonstrating the applicant’s dedication to continual improvement. Think about when you’ve responded to problems/risks in a professional environment. Where have you reported and learnt from errors?
Professional integrity and respect for others is a necessity. It is important to take responsibility for your own actions, be non-judgemental and aware of confidential and ethical issues. Think of a time when you’ve volunteered, shadowed or worked in a confidential environment, or were exposed to a sensitive/ethical issue?
Commitment to ongoing professional development
Final skill: It is important to demonstrate an additional interest out of the bare minimum, any books you’ve read? Courses or talks you’ve attended? Essay competitions you’ve participated in? Anything that has personally developed you, or made you better prepared for the exciting career ahead of you – include it! Key tip: If you have anything planned after the October deadline, that may help your application, it’s always a good idea to mention it! It may further indicate your drive to continually develop and can be further discussed at interviews.
A little note on references
Although your reference is written by someone else, you can always actively influence this section of your application. If there are points you were unable to include in your personal statement, due to space limitations, or they made you appear “less modest” – ask your tutor to pop it into your reference. It is important to regularly meet with the person writing your reference, and update them on anything you think will help your application. This shows them you are motivated (your dedication will certainly reflect in your reference), and you can also prevent them writing on topics you have already mentioned in your personal statement.
You’re an individual. You’re unique. Your story is different to anyone else. Find a way to demonstrate this in your personal statement – i.e. your personal journey. Always remember not to leave any part of your application till the last minute, the process is already stressful enough. Do not be afraid to ask medical professionals to have a read, making sure to take on the constructive criticism well.
It’ll all be worth it when you receive that offer!