Completing a placement year was an opportunity for me to enhance my professional CV and explore possible career paths that my degree can offer. Before my placement year, my career prospects as a biological sciences student seemed rigid and limited, but now that I've had a chance to work in industry, I've realised that my career options are diverse and endless!
Being strategic and focused helped make my placement search much easier. Early on, I met with my specialist careers consultant, Christel, to discuss my career prospects after graduation, my current CV and the kind of work experience required. Previously, I had completed a GP internship and spent a week shadowing an anaesthetist doctor, so to broaden my perspective, Christel and I decided that the next step would be to gain experience in clinical research.
Now that I had set myself a goal to find a clinical research role, my search for a placement was refined and focused. My placement adviser, Stefania worked with me throughout my search; I made regular visits to her for guidance on improving my CV, cover letter, interview preparation and mock interview practice. Stefania was a pillar of wisdom and support that helped me persevere during the sometimes tedious application process! She highlighted the importance of professional development and praised me for my commitment. With this help, I secured a placement as a Clinical Trial Assistant (CTA) at the University of Oxford, working on research for NDORMS (Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences)
My work in clinical trials focuses on two paediatric studies, FORCE and SCIENCE. On a typical day I’m at my desk contacting hospital sites and study participants, data handling, doing data checks and attending meetings. The great perks that come with this role are the opportunities to get involved with different projects. I was recruited to work on the upcoming study HIPGen as an investigational product (IP) processor/handler and for the new study FAME. I enjoy the flexibility of being able to participate in other studies – each day is different from the other.
My experience so far has made me appreciate the research that goes into developing treatments to improve the efficiency and cost of NHS services. This is very useful to me as a prospective medical student. As well as benefiting my future career, my placement has also helped me prepare myself to get back into academia as a third-year student. Whilst gaining work experience, I’ve developed my initiative and critical thinking through analysing and interpreting patient follow-ups and recruitment data.
I would highly recommend doing a placement year to all students. It is a year to develop your professional portfolio as well as your organisational and interpersonal skills. Successful individuals are those that take the initiative to develop their academic portfolio by applying their knowledge to the real world. For students currently applying, my advice is to be strategic, persevere and use the services PDC have to offer – they are there for you!