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The Importance of Volunteering for Careers in Medicine

Careers in Medicine - The Importance of Volunteering

by , 01 July, 2018
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You may have just seen a great article by Elliot that discussed what to do now the GAMSAT is over, and he provided some fantastic ways to prep for your admissions interviews.

So firstly, congratulations on completing the exam! Now you can breathe. While you are thinking about your next step, why not consider doing some light volunteering to boost your resume and job prospects?

Volunteering itself is highly rewarding as you contribute to society and help those in need, but it is also a great opportunity to develop new skills and knowledge that will ultimately make you a better practitioner. A med student from Stanford first highlighted to me the importance of volunteering and diversified skill building when working in the medical industry. It is quite an adventurous story, but we met in Guatemala as we were both put into the same homestay with a local family in order to learn Spanish. We attended daily Spanish lessons at a nearby language school and the rest of the time was spent learning the customs, food, and life experiences of our host family and that of others from around the village.Major Website Upgrade Following March 2018 GAMSAT

My Stanford friend had come to Guatemala to learn Spanish as he constantly found himself in situations where he could not adequately attend to his patients due to language and cultural barriers. He, therefore, took it upon himself to travel overseas and develop his linguistic and intercultural skills. This paid off for him, as his current employers were very impressed that he had taken these extra steps on his own. It demonstrated he was open to going above and beyond his regular duties to perform in his role well, and of course knowing Spanish in the US as a doctor proved to be exceedingly useful. As a result, my friend was able to undergo his residency at a highly prestigious hospital in the US.

Here are some additional ideas on how and why it might be useful to volunteer in Australia and abroad:

  1. Volunteering in some developing countries will provide the opportunity for you to practice in very different and sometimes challenging working conditions. You may not have the same equipment, the same healthcare systems, and the same access to medicine – all of which can result in different ways of treating patients. The benefits of this are that you will test your skills and capabilities in a new environment, learn from and work with healthcare professionals from diverse backgrounds, and of course, make a significant impact in your country of choice.

  2. There are a number of local organizations in Australia which you can consider getting involved with. These include Hands-On-Health Australia who focus on health and well-being, Operation Smile who work with children, and Mercy Ships Australia (whose work travels).   

  3. To improve your intercultural communication skills, why not volunteer with refugee or migrant groups in Australia? For many recently arrived migrants and refugees, language barriers will be problematic to various aspects of their lives. Helping them with language skills will better your ability to communicate with those whose first language is not English, and you may even learn a couple of words or phrases in another language yourself!