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Money and Medical School: How to Make Ends Meet.

Updated: Aug 7, 2022

Medical school has the potential to be some of the best years of your life. But money can be a big dark cloud looming over that experience for most people.

Whatever your background, living within a budget whilst at university is important, so much so that it warrants a blog post of its own so today we will focus on your income: the cash flow.

There is plenty of information on the Loans and Grants available to students online, most importantly official websites such as Student Finance England. Unfortunately, it is not easy to comfortably make ends meet on these alone.

Before I go in to some ideas for earning some dollar, I want to highlight something. I have listed options that I feel allow you to make money efficiently. Medical School is great but can be quite challenging both physically, mentally and emotionally. Ideally, you want to find a job that is not going to significantly detract from your ability to study, take care of yourself and have fun. That is why you’re at uni after all! Without sounding like your mum: pace yourself!

For that reason, I have deliberately not included waiter/waitressing, bar or club work in the list. That is no shade on them, they just happen to be jobs that involve low wages, late hours and are physically and emotionally draining.

Enough with the chat, without further ado and in no particular order, let me introduce the list:

1) Healthcare Assistant (HCA)/ Nursing Assistant (NA)

There is a good reason that working as an HCA/ NA is a popular option amongst med students.

It is a job that pays above the minimum wage with a good enhancement for out of hours, weekends and bank holiday work.

Not only that, but it’s also a really great way to translate all the (sometimes) boring barrage of information thrown at you in pre-clinical lectures, in to something that means something.

After all, gobbledegook words like “rituximab”, “pregabalin” and “clopidogrel” are a heck of a lot easier to remember when you are helping dish them out on a daily basis.

It’s also a great way to get various clinical skills signed off for your course. Earn money whilst getting course work done? Win Win!

Also worth noting, that any role within the NHS will count towards your ‘continuing years of service’ which means a) more NHS pension and (potentially) an earlier retirement age and b) you are entitled to more days of annual leave at an earlier point post qualifying.

2) Medical Notes Summariser

A less well known option but equally as beneficial as doing HCA work.

A notes summariser is essentially someone who works in a GP practice going through the Paper Medical Notes of new patients, highlighting the important bits and then putting the key info onto the practice computer system.

Interesting work, pays well (I used to earn £8.50 an hour), often shorter shifts so easy to fit in around lectures on a week day plus physically much easier as there is a comfy chair and supply of coffee guaranteed.

To find roles, have a snoop on the NHS website, University careers websites or even approach practices directly via emailing the Practice Manager.

3) Phlebotomy

This job is a sort of an add on to HCA, it is very easy to get trained as a ‘phleb’ (someone that takes blood from people) and often allows you to earn a little bit extra per hour. Great experience for when you qualify too!

Also has the benefit of allowing you to work in a GP Practice/other settings outside of the hospital.

4) First aider/ event medic

Another lucrative but also great fun option. Be sure to get yourself a First Aid qualification early doors and get in touch with your local Event Medicine company. Be aware that there are various different types of first aid qualifications around, for example; ‘Sports first aid’, so it is worth getting in touch with companies to ask what they would prefer. Just make sure that the training provider is accredited!

5) Tutoring

Something open to students of all types. Tutoring can offer some very attractive hourly rates. It is also a fantastic option for those that enjoy teaching and would look excellent on your CV. Be sure to have your DSB/CRB documentations to hand. There are many ways to get involved, via university societies, tutoring companies, med school societies and even advertising via local schools.

6) Essay Competitions

A left field option and unorthodox form of work. Some essay competitions can offer fantastic cash prizes (often between three and four figures). CV gold dust too! Keep your eyes peeled on your email inbox, browse speciality and royal college websites and chat to your tutors. You could even be doubly efficient and aim to enter a piece of work from a Student Selected Component (coursework module).

7) Dog Walking

Probably less easy to get in lots of hours, but a wonderful way to look after the soul and body as well as the purse. Look at local notice boards, newsletters and community Facebook/social media groups. There’s a good reason they’re known as “a man’s best friend”!

8) Babysitting/ Childminding

If it’s good enough for a Sixth Form you, then its good enough for Uni you! Plus, your Med School mandatory DBS will make you much more valuable, not to mention the inherent assumed trustworthiness that comes with the ‘medical student’ title. Plus, nothing better than an evening in a heated house with a comfy sofa and a monopoly on the TV remote.

9) Student Union work

Often overlooked, the Student Union can be a cracking way to earn whilst keeping up with your social life. Unions often pay a little better than minimum wage (I think they know students don’t often tip!)

10) Door work

Another social life themed job, working on the door of a bar/club/concert is often well paid. Be mindful that it can be a tough gig in the winter (in fact any time of year) but it can be fun to be around the buzz of a good night out, safe in the knowledge that you will come away richer and without a hangover.

11) Music performances

If you’ve got the skills, make the most of them! Wedding singer/performer/jazz band/busker - it can be wonderful to monetise your skill.

12) Research Trials

Not strictly a job, but often the local Research hub (often affiliated with your university) will ‘pay’ well for you to participate in their trial. Of course, you are only being reimbursed for your time/trouble, but often that reimbursement is very generous. Trials do not always involve being injected/medicated, there are a lot of research projects that involve semi-structured interviews and responses to various non pharmaceutical interventions.

13) Social media influencer

Because it is 2021 after all! I cannot pretend to be an expert in the world of ‘Influencers’ (when I started Uni in 2010, Insta and snapchat did not exist), BUT I do know many medics have made a very successful living off their social media side hustle. I’m sure many are already on your radar! So if you’ve got the mind for it, there is no reason that you cannot be one too. A word of warning though: imagine 35 year old you/ Doctor you or your parents scrolling back through your timeline before you post anything.

Wishing you the best of luck with your application , career and, most importantly, having the best time at Medical School!

Dr Cliona Lewis

WPMN Doctor Representative for the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.

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