How do I get medical work experience?

The journey towards becoming a doctor begins long before attending medical school, and your suitability for this path doesn’t solely rely on academia. 

Having relevant work experience is important for any university application, as it showcases a genuine commitment to your chosen subject and demonstrates a comprehensive understanding of what it takes to succeed in the world of work. However, work experience is crucial for medical applicants.

As work experience can take many forms, from clinical internships to community outreach programmes, this article discusses the best ways to gain work experience for studying Medicine in the UK. This will boost your personal statement and CV, and improve your chances of securing a medical school interview.

At The Profs we have a professional team of medical admissions experts who are equipped to help you ace your university applications, with more than 95% of our students getting into their first or second-choice universities. 

Alternatively, if you would like to hear the full rundown of what it takes to become a doctor in the UK, why not read our recent article on how to pursue a career in medicine? Or better yet, get in touch with our medical admissions team of over 400 experienced tutors to maximise your chances of success!

Is medicine right for you?

Deciding whether a career in medicine is right for you requires careful consideration of various factors. Medicine is a rigorously demanding subject that requires strong abilities in Biology, Chemistry, and Mathematics. 

Medicine involves many dedicated years of education and training, long hours, and high levels of responsibility. Therefore, before you even begin applying, you need to consider whether you are willing to make the necessary sacrifices and handle the challenges that accompany a medical career. Make sure you also talk to one of your teachers for their insight on whether Medicine is a suitable subject for you.

Having the right work experience can help you make some of these tough decisions, by shedding light on what work within the healthcare industry looks like. Ultimately, committing to medicine cannot be rushed! Take the time to consider your options, gather information, and seek guidance as needed to make an informed decision about your future career path.

Hell-bent on pursuing medicine? We have an expert admissions team who can help you prepare a winning application to an esteemed medical undergraduate and/or postgraduate course. 

If you are currently studying Medicine and need some help boosting your grades, why not get in touch with one of our expert medical school tutors? All of our tutors have at least 2 years of tutoring experience and prestigious qualifications; 46% have a PhD. Get in contact today if you’d like to boost your grades just like 93% of our students did in 2022!

What work experience should I get for Medicine?

Volunteering vs work experience

Volunteering holds considerable value for medical school applications for several reasons: 

  • It involves undertaking unpaid activities to benefit others.
  • It contributes to the community and demonstrates a genuine commitment to serving others.
  • It stimulates personal and professional growth. 
  • It can often demonstrate empathy, compassion and a desire to make a positive impact, which is all essential for becoming a good doctor.

Very often volunteering is associated with charity work. For instance, if you are a bit musical, the Alzheimer’s Society runs the ‘Singing for the Brain’ initiative in local community centres, which brings together those suffering from dementia to sing a diverse range of familiar songs within a cheerful and welcoming atmosphere. This is something you can help with if you like to sing whilst supporting some of the most vulnerable in society.

Besides this, the Alzheimer’s Society offers multiple ways of getting involved in volunteering which is most certainly worth looking into. You may find volunteering opportunities through nursing homes or another healthcare company if you are confident enough to reach out to them directly.

On the other hand, there’s ‘work experience’. This typically refers to paid or unpaid placements where individuals have the opportunity to observe and engage in activities related to healthcare, such as shadowing doctors, assisting with patient care, or working in clinical or research settings. 

This type of experience provides insight into the day-to-day realities of working in a medical practice and allows applicants to develop transferable skills and knowledge relevant to the field of medicine.

Both work experience and volunteering can strengthen medical school applications by demonstrating applicants’ dedication to the field of medicine, their understanding of healthcare, and their interpersonal and communication skills. 

They both provide complementary insights and perspectives on the practice of medicine and the role of healthcare professionals in society, so we recommend getting involved with both so that you can build a varied personal statement or CV. Medicine is notoriously competitive, so having an impressive range of relevant experience will help you to stand out from the crowd. Contact our expert admissions team for help crafting the perfect medical school application! 

Insider tip: Our experienced team of education consultants doesn’t just help with perfecting your CV, we also work on personal statements. Check out our YouTube videos to find out more about how we can help you with your applications.

What charities can I volunteer with?

There are several charities that you can volunteer with which offer practical medical experience. Below are a few popular examples that we believe are worth investigating if you want to add to your volunteering experience, many of which offer medical training as part of their programmes.

  • Royal Volunteering Service: Engage in volunteering roles within hospitals and the community.                                                                                                                        
  • St John Ambulance’s NHS Cadet Programme: Learn life-saving first aid skills, whilst supporting St John Ambulance adult volunteers at events.                                                                      
  • Global Pre-Meds: This international programme offers volunteering opportunities to shadow doctors abroad. An interview is required following a written application.
  • National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO): Discover local volunteering opportunities through their platform and experience working in a community setting. 
  • Kissing it Better: Dedicated to providing support to isolated elderly individuals whilst developing volunteering experience within social care.
  • British Dental Association (BDA): Apply for volunteer positions at the British Dental Association Museum, assisting paid staff in preserving collections.
  • Do It: Access a comprehensive database featuring a wide array of volunteering opportunities.

Insider tip: As you might do with job applications, make sure you try to apply early for volunteering opportunities. Even these positions can fill up quickly, so make sure you utilise every chance you have to build the ‘Professional Experience’ part of your CV and don’t let good opportunities pass you by. Get in touch with us early – we can help build your healthcare industry experience.

Can your school or college help?

Your school will want to provide you with as many opportunities as possible to make you a more attractive candidate to UK medical schools, so it won’t hurt to ask them if there are any relevant work experience opportunities for you to take up. 

Sometimes, work placements are only available because your school is putting in a good word for you. So, you should stay in your school’s good books by working to achieve the best grades possible, maintaining good behaviour and engaging in several extracurricular activities. 

Your teachers are important in acting as references, not just for your UCAS application, but also for some highly competitive medical placements. 

A significant part of your application will come down to the strength of your recommendations, so make sure to tell your teacher early about your ambitions to work within the healthcare industry, and they should be happy to do all they can to get you there. 

For instance, the University of Oxford’s Medical Summer School offers academic teachings in Medicine whilst providing opportunities to work in the hospital, and even develop clinical skills like suturing and basic life support (BLS). 

We are proud to house an amazing team of Oxbridge admissions tutors whose results triple the national average Oxbridge acceptance rate! What’s more, 95% of our tutors hold a postgraduate qualification, and 46% of our tutors even have a PhD. If you are applying for the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge, ensure that you make the most of your application through our expert services.

Asking your GP surgery

Observing a doctor in primary care holds as much importance to your application as hospital experience because it shows strong levels of empathy and engagement in community care. Medical schools look at candidates who demonstrate these qualities, and one excellent way of doing so is through engaging in work experience with your local GP.

To secure a placement, approach your nearby surgery, introduce yourself, and offer a CV or application letter expressing your interest. Smaller organisations are often happy to arrange placements so long as students are enthusiastic. However, you should still plan to avoid oversubscription issues.

One advantage of primary care work experience is its community setting which exposes you to diverse patients with varied clinical presentations and backgrounds. Primary care serves as the initial point of contact for the public to request healthcare services and is crucial for the effective operation of the NHS. 

Insider tip: It’s important to note that each patient must verbally consent for you to observe as a work experience student. While most patients are willing, occasional refusals may occur. Additionally, some GP practices decline students who are registered patients to avoid recognising neighbours, so you may need to seek placements further afield. It never hurts to ask, so make sure you give this a go if you want to produce the best possible application.

Don’t forget, we have an expert admissions team who can help you prepare a winning application to an esteemed medical undergraduate and/or postgraduate course. 

Work in a real hospital

When people first consider work experience in a healthcare setting, hospitals are one of the first few places that come to mind.

There are many opportunities for aspiring medical students to obtain hospital work experience. Most of them come in the form of 2-week summer placements and sometimes involve a heavy fee, and require an extensive application process. Despite this, it looks extremely impressive to be able to have this on your CV, and it shows that you are one of the UK’s most promising future doctors!

There are many hospital work placements for you to choose from. For example, InvestIN is a London-based organisation that provides students aged 12-18 with the opportunity to shadow a hospital-based healthcare professional, allowing them to develop a realistic understanding of medicine through practical experience. If you already have an interest in a particular area of medicine, it’s worth trying to secure some work observation in that specialty.

Insider tip: Crafting the best application requires many years of schooling and your grades need to be as strong as possible. Additionally, you can decide to pursue Medicine after studying another subject at university, however, you will start as a doctor later in life than other Medicine graduates. It therefore helps to know you want to become a doctor sooner rather than later. The earlier you know, the more time you have to gain relevant work experiences, strong grades and extracurricular achievements, all of which will make your personal statement better. Take a look at this article on how to write a winning personal statement to find out more.

We also have a team of excellent GCSE tutors, A level tutors and IB tutors who can help you improve your grades and teach you how to study more independently. Studying with a tutor is a fantastic way to develop initiative, which is an extremely important skill to have as a doctor. Work with one of our tutors to invest in your medical career.

Consider opportunities overseas

Besides gaining medical experience, travel is a fantastic thing to mention when applying to universities, if you have the finances for it. Not only does travelling demonstrate independence and initiative, but it also indicates a zest for adventure and a willingness to tackle challenges head-on.

It is important to note that international work experience for medical school isn’t a compulsory aspect of the application procedure but it can enhance your application, and it is a great thing to mention whilst applying for medical school. Several organisations host international community projects over the summer that you can apply for. 

For instance, the organisation Projects Abroad runs summer programmes in Medicine in countries like Ghana and Nepal, facilitating fantastic opportunities for cultural exchange whilst learning about various issues facing the medical profession in other parts of the world. 

Participating in medical work experience placements abroad provides distinctive learning opportunities and enables candidates to demonstrate their adaptability, cultural competence, and dedication to global health. 

These are qualities that can leave a lasting impression on admissions panels. Additionally, this form of work experience demonstrates your desire to improve the health of local communities and change lives for the better.

Virtual work experience opportunities

Now, in 2024, some healthcare placements are mostly or even entirely conducted online. Hence, you might not have to be in a hospital in person to complete work experience! This type of work experience may be something you wish to consider if leaving home is a bit difficult, whether it be because of lack of finances, caregiver responsibilities or simply because you aren’t ready to leave home yet.

The University of Southampton’s Medical Virtual Work Experience Programme offers British Year 12 students who are studying A level Biology first-hand experience working in a hospital, whilst also asking current medical students what it is like to study Medicine at university. 

Other institutions across the country offer similar courses, hence you can learn about other medical degrees through your work experience. Alternatively, if you are more interested in what working within the industry looks like, you can search for free virtual placements through organisations like Observe GP, Springpod, and Future Learn.

Insider tip: Work experience applications, virtual or not, often involve interviews, which require a lot of preparation and commitment to get right. If you want to start preparing early, or you have an interview coming up, why not work with one of our expert interview tutors? We offer constructive interview practice and lots of online resources that will boost your confidence and impress future employers. We also have some experienced A level Biology and A level Chemistry tutors onboard who are ready to help you attain the necessary grades for entry into undergraduate Medicine – don’t leave your A level grades to chance! 

Advertise locally

If you are struggling to find opportunities for medical work experience, it might be a good idea to advertise your abilities via fliers in your local shops or even your neighbours’ post boxes! Chances are that someone will know of a healthcare professional with a job opening that’s right for you. So, work up some courage and reach out to your local community.

Remember that you are marketing yourself, so a plain old CV won’t be enough. Make sure to create a visually engaging flyer that shows you are friendly and approachable while demonstrating your interest in going into medicine. If graphics aren’t your thing, you could even write a formal cover letter to the public. 

Only share personal information that you are comfortable sharing and avoid including your address. You might want to set up a separate email address for work purposes to reduce the amount of private information you are sharing with the public.

Insider tip: Make sure you establish a strong professional profile online, through websites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Xing, to provide people with further confidence in your potential. Check that your social media is private and acceptable for potential employers to see; make sure you have nothing embarrassing online that could jeopardise your image. All this is good practice for job hunting after university and aids your CV, allowing you to network with potential employers in the future. 

What else can you do?

To make a stellar application for UK medical schools, there are many things you can do beyond collecting work experience and developing a strong academic record. For instance, you could earn an online certification in anatomy or physiology that extends beyond your school curriculum through a course such as Harvard Medical School’s online Fundamentals Physiology summer programme, which is particularly relevant if you are a mature student applying for Medicine. 

Whilst some of these programmes can be pricey, there are free online courses prospective students can take through other university institutions, advertised through websites like edX, which aim to provide free education for everyone. Regardless of what certifications you choose to pursue, deciding to take some to supplement your learning will make your application stand out. 

Inside tip: You can get in touch with one of our expert Science tutors if you would like to grow your academic understanding beyond your school curriculum. They can suggest books to read, public events and competitions to participate in, and talks to attend that will boost your engagement with the subject.

Taking the next steps towards a career in medicine

Securing relevant experience in medical work in the real world requires proactive engagement and long-term planning. Whether through volunteering, shadowing healthcare professionals, virtual work experience, or seeking opportunities abroad, securing relevant experience in medical work in the real world requires proactive engagement and long-term planning. 

Although work experience is not essential, medical schools expect applicants to have some, as it shows you understand what it takes to study Medicine and succeed in the industry. Even more importantly, it’s best to have some relevant work experience to help you decide if medicine is the right career path for you. 

Ensure that you start thinking early about your career goals so that you give yourself as much time as possible to develop a strong CV and personal statement. Receiving support from The Profs can help make this happen.

Get 1-to-1 help from an expert Medicine tutor

At The Profs, we are committed to helping students get onto the university course of their choice! 

It is because of this commitment to success that we were given the coveted ‘Best Tuition Delivery for Private Clients’ Award at the National Tutoring Awards 2023, and have been the highest-rated tuition company on TrustPilot for 7 years running! 

We help students reach their potential by increasing their grades, developing their collection of relevant experience and helping them access top institutions 

Get in touch with our medical admissions team to maximise your chances of getting into your top choice of medical school. And if you’re already studying Medicine and need some help boosting your grades, why not get in touch with one of our expert medical school tutors

FAQs

What work experience is good for medicine?

Work experience that is beneficial for medicine typically involves gaining exposure to clinical settings, such as hospitals, GP surgeries, or clinics, where you can observe healthcare professionals in action and understand the dynamics of patient care. 

Volunteering in care homes or hospices can also provide valuable insights into patient interaction and empathy. Additionally, opportunities to shadow doctors or participate in medical research projects can deepen your understanding of the field. 

Ultimately, any experience that allows you to develop key skills like communication, teamwork, and resilience in a medical setting, whether it be a work or shadowing experience, will be valuable for pursuing a career in medicine.

How many hours of work experience should you have?

Typically, there isn’t an official minimum stipulation regarding the duration of work experience required, but aiming for approximately two weeks is advisable. If you’re able to undertake more, that’s commendable. 

However, typically two weeks is more than enough, and even a shorter duration is rarely a significant concern. This is because medical schools typically pay the closest attention to the quality of your observational experience through work or volunteering.

The amount and type of work you do, strictly speaking, should not affect your application to medical school and specific work experience is not required. However, demonstrating that you have clinical work experience in a caring environment is highly valuable. 

Our advice is to gain experience in providing impactful clinical or community support, but don’t overload yourself. Focus on the quality over the quantity of experience.

However, please note that work experience must usually be taken within 2 years of starting your course. So, make sure you check in with the universities of your choice to learn their expected and recommended application guidelines.

Why is work experience important for medicine?

Work can provide invaluable insights into the realities of healthcare, allowing individuals to gain first-hand experience in clinical settings and understand the challenges and rewards of patient care. 

It also enables students to develop essential skills such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving, which are vital for success in medical school and future medical work. Furthermore, it demonstrates a genuine commitment to the field of medicine, showcasing applicants’ dedication to serving others and making a positive impact on society. 

Overall, healthcare-related work experience plays a vital role in shaping aspiring doctors, equipping them with the knowledge, skills, and values necessary for a fulfilling and successful career in medicine. Ensure that you consult the Medical Schools Council to see the full list of medical schools currently operating in the UK!

Also, remember that whilst medical schools often have no specific work experience requirements, they expect students to provide some as part of their medical application. This could include work experience in a healthcare organisation, volunteering in a care-related setting, or even paid work as a healthcare assistant or similar.

Where can you get work experience in medicine?

There are various avenues to gain experience working within the medical sector. The best option is to secure placements in hospitals, clinics, or general practices, where individuals can shadow doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals, observe patient consultations, and assist with administrative tasks. 

Alongside work experience, volunteering opportunities within healthcare settings, such as hospitals or care homes, also provide valuable hands-on experience and exposure to patient care. 

Additionally, organisations like charities, hospices, and medical research institutes often offer volunteering roles that allow individuals to contribute to healthcare initiatives and gain insight into different aspects of the field.

Moreover, summer schools, outreach programmes, and mentoring schemes organised by universities or medical schools provide opportunities for prospective students to engage in medical-related activities and interact with healthcare professionals. 

In short, there are numerous avenues to obtain work experience in medicine, and aspiring medical professionals should explore diverse opportunities to gain a comprehensive understanding of the healthcare sector.

What medical schools should I apply to?

When deciding which medical schools to apply to, consider factors such as the curriculum, teaching style, location, and facilities offered by each institution. Research the reputation and rankings of the medical schools, as well as their entry requirements and admissions criteria. 

Think about your preferences and strengths, including whether you prefer a traditional or problem-based learning approach, and whether you have a particular interest in a specific area of medicine. It’s also essential to consider practical aspects like tuition fees, living costs, and the overall atmosphere of the campus. 

Most importantly, choose medical schools that align with your academic goals, personal preferences, and career aspirations. Get in touch with one of our expert consultancy tutors if you need some help in choosing the best one for you.