How students can #ChoosePaediatrics

During medical school, students tend to have limited time within speciality rotations and subsequently, healthcare professionals have a short window of opportunity to promote their chosen careers. Nevertheless, there are lots of ways for aspiring paediatricians to get involved. Alexandra Richards, UKAPS VP for Medical Students shares her ideas on encouraging students to #ChoosePaediatrics.
Alexandra Richards

I believe that in order for students to #ChoosePaediatrics, it is important to increase educational events, research and clinical experiences to support - and inspire - the future generation of paediatricians. 

Pre-medical school

Medical school applications have certain requirements, and it is important to gain experience with individuals of all age groups. However, there are lots of opportunities for students to work with children, whether it be volunteering at an after-school club, working at a summer camp or contacting a local hospital for clinical work experience in paediatrics.

For medical school applications, I would recommend working with children in a variety of different environments, including clinical, educational and recreational settings. This is important to gain both the wide breadth of experience and the fundamental communication skills needed for a future career in child health. Whilst clinical experience is desired for medical school entry, I recognise that it can be difficult to secure, and it is important to remember that working with children, in any environment, is beneficial for all future career aspirations.

Medical school

During medical school, clinical placements are often short, which is challenging when trying to discover your suited career pathway. However, the best way to get involved with child health, or any specialty in fact, is through university societies, which host an abundance of events, volunteering opportunities and projects.

Nowadays, most UK universities have their own paediatric society and there may also be a ‘Teddy Bear Hospital’ society whereby volunteers teach young children about hospitals and healthcare experiences. These societies are a good place to start in order to learn about child health, work with children, gain leadership experience via committee roles and make friends along the way.

There are also several national societies including UK Aspiring Paediatricians Society (UKAPS) and the International Child Health Group, both of which work with the College to provide further opportunities for students. I would definitely recommend signing up to become a Medical Student Member of the College to keep up to date with ongoing events, opportunities and many more membership benefits!

In the final years of medical school, students have the opportunity to undertake ‘student selected components’ or research projects during university hours. For these, I would recommend contacting your local paediatric department or approaching one of your clinical child health lecturers to ask whether you may be able to support them with their clinical and/or academic work. This is the best way to meet your local child health team and get involved with current research in paediatrics. If this is not possible, I would recommend attending conferences, joining a national research group (for example the PIER Network, GAPR-UKI or WREN) and/or applying for an intercalated degree in Child Health.

Furthermore, final year medical students have the opportunity to undertake an elective placement, and I would recommend organising a placement within paediatrics and child health, whether this be in the UK or abroad. It is important to note that all of these opportunities can be challenging to organise, without contacts, so please reach out to your local paediatric society and/or school and the UKAPS Committee if you would like some support and advice.

Some ideas for opportunities within paediatrics and child health

  • Apply for part-time employment at a children’s summer camp or local nursery
  • Join the university paediatric society
  • Attend child health conferences and events
  • Apply for an intercalated degree in Child Health
  • Support the local paediatric department with academia
  • Join a national paediatric research group or society
  •  Volunteer for local children’s charities
  • Apply for an elective placement in a paediatric department
  • Teach students about child health via any medical education platform

Many of these opportunities will not be feasible during the current climate; however, there are several virtual conferences and events within paediatrics and child health that students are able to attend. Current events are shared with student affiliate and UKAPS members on a monthly basis via our email.