Student Perspectives on the Impact of an Undergraduate Work-Integrated Learning Program on Admission and Transition to Medical School

  • Rachel McDonald
  • Adam Bobrowski
  • Leah Drost
  • Leigha Rowbottom
  • Judene Pretti
  • Hany Soliman
  • Stephanie Chan
  • Edward ChowEmail author


Work-integrated learning (WIL) is a form of education that integrates academic and workplace study. Such programs provide students the opportunity to concurrently develop cognitive and non-cognitive competencies. The purpose of this study is to explore which experiences and skills learned in a WIL placement are useful in applying to medical school and transitioning into the first year of a Doctor of Medicine program. All individuals who worked in the Rapid Response Radiotherapy Program (RRRP; WIL placement) since 2004 and had completed at least 1 year of medical school were invited to participate. Semi-formal interviews were conducted and transcribed. A thematic analysis was completed to identify recurring concepts, and quotes were selected to represent them. Of 39 eligible individuals, 14 agreed to participate (36%). Students identified the volume of work, achieving a work-life balance, and time management as challenges in first-year medical school. Five themes emerged regarding the impact of the RRRP on applying and transitioning to medical school: time management skills, mentorship opportunities, research experience, clinical experience, and career choice. WIL placements present a unique opportunity for undergraduate students interested in pursuing medicine to acquire skills and experiences that will help them succeed in applying and transitioning to medical school.


Work-integrated learning Co-operative education Medical school Undergraduate medical education 



The authors wish to thank the survey participants and the generous support of Bratty Family Fund, Michael and Karyn Goldstein Cancer Research Fund, Joey and Mary Furfari Cancer Research Fund, Pulenzas Cancer Research Fund, Joseph and Silvana Melara Cancer Research Fund, and Ofelia Cancer Research Fund. The authors would also like to thank Peggy Jarvie, Associate Provost, Co-operative and Experiential Education, for her leadership within the co-operative education program at the University of Waterloo.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. 1.
    The Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (2010) Canadian Medical Education Statistics 2010. Accessed 21 Dec 2017
  2. 2.
    The Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (2016) Canadian Medical Education Statistics 2016. Accessed 21 Dec 2017
  3. 3.
    Eskander A, Shandling M, Hanson M (2013) Should the MCAT exam be used for medical school admissions in Canada? Acad Med 88(5):572–580CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Violato C, Donnon T (2005) Does the medical college admission test predict clinical reasoning skills? A longitudinal study employing the Medical Council of Canada clinical reasoning examination. Acad Med 80(10 suppl):S14–S6CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Dunleavy DM, Kroopnick MH, Dowd KW, Searcy CA, Zhao X (2013) The predictive validity of the MCAT exam in relation to academic performance through medical school: a national cohort study of 2001–2004 matriculants. Acad Med 88(5):666–671CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Donnon T, Paolucci EO, Violato C (2007) The predictive validity of the MCAT for medical school performance and medical board licensing examinations: a meta-analysis of the published research. Acad Med 82(1):100–106CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Julian ER (2005) Validity of the medical college admission test for predicting medical school performance. Acad Med 80(10):910–917CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Monroe A, Quinn E, Samuelson W, Dunleavy DM, Dowd KW (2013) An overview of the medical school admission process and use of applicant data in decision making: what has changed since the 1980s? Acad Med 88(5):672–681CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Bendapudi NM, Berry LL, Frey KA, Parish JT, Rayburn WL (2006) Patients’ perspectives on ideal physician behaviours. Mayo Clin Proc 81(3):338–344CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Koenig TW, Parrish SK, Terregino CA, Williams JP, Dunleavy DM, Volsch JM (2013) Core personal competencies important to entering students’ success in medical school: what are they and how could they be assessed early in the admission process? Acad Med 88(5):603–613CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Duberstein P, Meldrum S, Fiscella K, Shields CG, Epstein RM (2007) Influences on patients’ ratings of physicians: physicians demographics and personality. Patient Educ Couns 65(2):270–274CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Bandiera G, Maniate J, Hanson M, Woods N, Hodges B (2015) Access and selection: Canadian perspectives on who will be good doctors and how to identify them. Acad Med 90(7):946–952CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Dyrbye LN, Thomas MR, Shanafelt TD (2006) Systematic review of depression, anxiety, and other indicators of psychological distress among U.S. and Canadian medical students. Acad Med 81(4):354–373CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Reaume D, Ropp T (2005) Learning in medical school: transition issues, strategy use, and self-regulation. Can J High Educ 35(4):27–53Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Co-operative Education and Work Integrated Learning Canada. Co-operative education definition. Accessed 5 Jan 2018
  16. 16.
    Jackson D (2013) The contribution of work-integrated learning to undergraduate employability skill outcomes. Asia-Pac J Coop Ed 14(2):99–115Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Eyler JS, Giles DE, Stenson CM, Gray CJ (2001) At a glance: what we know about the effects of service-learning on college students, faculty, institutions and communities, 1993–2000: Third Edition. Accessed 5 Jan 2018
  18. 18.
    McDonald R, Lechner B, Pulenzas N, Bedard G, Wong E, Holden L, Tsao M, Barnes E, Szumacher E, Fenton G, Chow E, Popovic M, Danjoux C (2015) Student accomplishments in the rapid response radiotherapy program: a 10-year review. J Cancer Educ 30(4):693–698CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Lave W, Wenger E (1991) Situated learning legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Stenfors-Hayes T, Hult H, Dahlgren LO (2011) What does it mean to be a mentor in medical education? Med Teach 33(8):e423–e428CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Frei E, Stamm M, Buddeberg-Fischer B (2010) Mentoring programs for medical students - a review of the PubMed literature 2000-2008. BMC Med Educ 10:32CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Stamm M, Buddeberg-Fischer B (2011) The impact of mentoring during postgraduate training on doctors’ career success. Med Educ 45(5):488–496CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Tenenbaum LS, Anderson M, Ramadorai SB, Yourick DL (2017) High school students’ experience with near-peer mentorship and laboratory-based learning: in their own words. J STEM Educ 18(3):5–12Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Burgoyne LN, O'Flynn S, Boylan GB (2010) Undergraduate medical research: the student perspective. Med Educ Online 15:5212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Houlden RL, Raja JB, Collier CP, Clark AF, Waugh JM (2004) Medical students’ perceptions of an undergraduate research elective. Med Teach 26(7):659–661CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Dornan T, Littlewood S, Margolis SS, Scherpbier A, Spencer J, Ypinazar V (2006) How can experience in clinical and community settings contribute to early medical education? A BEME systematic review. Med Teach 28(1):3–18CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Dornan T, Boshuizen H, King N, Scherpbier A (2007) Experience-based learning: a model linking the processes and outcomes of medical students’ workplace learning. Med Educ 41(1):84–91CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Smith SE, Tallentire VR, Cameron HS, Wood SM (2013) The effects of contributing to patient care on medical students’ workplace learning. Med Educ 47(12):1184–1196CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Dyrbye LN, Harris I, Rohren CH (2007) Early clinical experiences from students' perspectives: a qualitative study of narratives. Acad Med 82(10):979–988CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© American Association for Cancer Education 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rachel McDonald
    • 1
  • Adam Bobrowski
    • 1
  • Leah Drost
    • 1
  • Leigha Rowbottom
    • 1
  • Judene Pretti
    • 2
  • Hany Soliman
    • 1
  • Stephanie Chan
    • 1
  • Edward Chow
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Radiation Oncology, Odette Cancer Centre, Sunnybrook Health Sciences CentreUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.University of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

Personalised recommendations