Finding Medical Work Experience
The General Medical Council (GMC) states: “students can gain practical experience and find out more about a career in medicine through work observation” – quote directly from GMC website.
To talk about where and how you can get medical work experience, we need to explain a couple of things first. Commonly amongst medical school’s work experience should;
- be in a people-focused environment;
- give a realistic understanding of the emotional and physical aspects of being a medical professional and
- allow you to develop essential values for a good doctor i.e. good communication skills, teamwork and organisation.
How to get medical work experience – Summary
- Hospitals and GP surgeries
- Online/Virtual work experience
The NHS constitution outlines values of a good doctor.
Now that we know what you should be looking for in your medical work experience, let’s see what medical schools say about how to find medical work experience.
Be aware some Medicals Schools DO NOT ACCEPT SHADOWING AND OBSERVING as sole medical work experience. It’s very important to highlight this as it’s very common for Medicine applicants to have only shadowing in their work experience portfolio. However, shadowing can be extremely useful and can improve your application greatly in combination with other work experience placements.
Most Medical Schools in the UK require applicants to have some work experience in medical setting, but they also understand it can be very hard to get some nowadays. Work experience in caring is also widely accepted.
To see work experience requirements for each Medical School, read our Medical Schools Requirements guide.
How to get work experience?
If you know someone who works in a hospital, GP surgery or caring environment this should be your first route of enquiry. Ask them if they can help organise a volunteering placement or some shadowing.
If you do not know anyone who could help you with this, ask your teachers who may be able to advise you or connect you with someone who can organise a placement.
If that is not possible either, and it usually isn’t, it’s up to you to find some medical work experience.
Contacting hospitals and GP surgeries
When contacting any trust, practice or business to organise work experience, it is a good idea to treat the application process similarly to a job application. If applying via email or post send a CV and cover letter explaining why you’d like the experience. it’s professional, shows commitment and will increase your chances of securing the placement.
Download this Work Experience Application Email Template to see how you should contact a hospital or a GP surgery. Download this Work Experience Application Call Template if you are applying for work experience by phone.
Many NHS trusts run hospital volunteer programmes. West Suffolk trust allows students to volunteer on hospital wards for two hours per week for blocks of 6 months at a time. Information on these schemes can be found on the hospital website. Directly contacting care homes is another good way of organising experience in a caring environment.
Shadowing can be difficult to organise without contacts and medical schools understand this hence why most do not list it as a requirement. As we already mentioned, some Medical Schools do not accept shadowing as sole medical work experience. An example of a Medical School like this is Keele.
When organising it yourself check trust websites for any shadowing schemes. Contact information for doctors, medical secretaries and GP practices is usually readily available online.
Volunteering can be another great way to get Medical Work Experience. You can volunteer at many places, including hospitals and care homes but don’t rule out volunteering opportunities abroad. A lot of students go to countries like Vietnam, India or Kenya to do some volunteering work.
However, this is nearly impossible to arrange while you are at college or high school, and it’s more relevant for people taking a gap year before starting medical school. Nonetheless, it’s a great way to boost your Medicine application.
Working or volunteering for charities is another great way to get some relevant work experience. It’s usually less difficult to get a placement in a charity than in a hospital since charities are usually understaffed. However, quite a lot of charities only accept over 16-year-olds or over 18-year-olds. So this again maybe something not everyone will be able to arrange.
Virtual/Online work experience
When someone says online or virtual work experience a lot of people image something like a YouTube video or a webinar. But that’s definitely not the case.
In our online work experience courses, you get to interact with the NHS doctors and patients yourself through your microphone and a webcam. You will also get a chance to talk about the patient cases with other medicine applicants and sharpen your communication skills.
Whether you get to arrange other work experience opportunities or not, courses like our Ward Round Live or GP Live can give you something only very few other opportunities can – the interaction with a doctor and a patient.
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