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Brighton & Sussex Medical School

BSMS virtual work experience (VWex) programme wins award 

BSMS > About BSMS > News > 2020 > BSMS virtual work experience programme wins award

BSMS virtual work experience programme wins award

The Widening Participation and Outreach team at BSMS have won the Innovation Award at the UK Social Mobility Awards 2020.

It was the fourth year of the UK’s only Awards dedicated to recognising the success of both organisations and individuals who promote social mobility across the UK, and was celebrated ‘virtually’ with an online gala. By celebrating those committed to doing things differently and raising awareness of best practice, these Awards aim to advance the practical implementation of social mobility in this country and create a movement of institutions committed to making change happen.

The Widening Participation and Outreach team at BSMS won the award for their virtual work  experience (VWEX) programme. VWEX provides aspiring medics, regardless of their background and social capital, the opportunity to engage in medicine-related work “experience”, and has seen over 27,500 participants from across the globe sign up since its launch in late January. 

Official image to show the innovation award prize

Charlotte Smyrk, Widening Participation, Outreach and Recruitment Officer at BSMS, who is part of the team that runs the programme, said: “Work experience is of great importance to medical school applicants. It can develop and strengthen applicants’ insight into the field of medicine and they can reflect on this experience to demonstrate key skills, values and attributes.  

“Unfortunately, research suggests that work experience opportunities for aspiring medics are often governed by who they know in the field. As a result, those with informal social networks have traditionally had greater access to clinical work experience and, consequently, are better prepared for the application process and interviews for medical school. In order to address this accessibility issue, we developed an online work experience resource, which would be open to all.” 

Initially designed before the pandemic to serve as a resource for those from non-traditional backgrounds, the comprehensive programme has provided a useful tool for many in a time of a pandemic, where in-person work experience opportunities have been severely limited. The resource introduces participants to the principles of the NHS, before exploring the roles and skill sets of six different medical specialists, as well as considering some of the challenges and wider issues doctors face.

Data analysis from pre- and post-course surveys demonstrates a learning gain in many key areas such as users’ confidence in knowledge of the NHS values and the key skills required by doctors and healthcare professionals. There also appears to be a small dispelling of the myth that work experience in a hospital setting is necessary to get into medical school. Delving a little further into the analysis, statistical analysis shows the positive impact the programme is having on those from the most disadvantaged areas of England, above and beyond those residing in more affluent areas. The programme was developed by the Widening Participation and Outreach team, along with alumnus Jake Bush, who is currently a junior doctor. 

Find out more about the BSMS VWEX programme here >

 A photo of the BSMS admissions team

The Widening Participation and Outreach team (left to right): Claire Johnson, Charlotte Smyrk, Darren Beaney, Alice Long and Matt Cowdock.