Things to know before you start work experience

Organising work experience is pivotal to applying for medicine. Not only does it enhance your CV, but it can also help you determine whether medicine is the right career choice for you.

Where can you find work experience?

  • General Practice – not as busy as the hospital so the doctors may have more time to explain things to you and provide you with more guidance about the application process and the life of a doctor.
  • Hospital – can be difficult to organise but it is the best way to gain a reliable insight into hospital life.
  • Care Home – most care homes are under-staffed so it is worth getting in touch with them. I worked in a care home for 2 years before applying to medical school. It gave me a little extra money and also helped a lot when writing personal statement.
  • Volunteer work – sometimes it can be difficult to find any medical placement. But this should not stop you from applying! Try and get involved with charities because you can talk about all the transferable skills you have gained from this experience.

How to arrange work experience?

Make the most of any contacts you/your friends/your family have! The NHS has thousands of employees so it is likely that you will come across someone that works in healthcare. My mum is a nurse and even with this link to the hospital, I was only able to get one day of hospital placement during the application process.

When should I apply for work experience?

Places tend to fill up quickly so it is important that you plan ahead. It takes time to organise placements so keep this in mind. Be polite but persistent when sending out emails to doctors. They are often extremely busy and sometimes your email may get lost so it is worthwhile sending multiple emails until they respond to you!

How many placements and for how long?

There is no right answer to this question. The most important thing with regards to work experience is reflecting on your experience. Medical schools want to see that you really immersed yourself into the placement and learnt all that you can about working as a doctor. It’s all very well managing to do numerous hospital placements in various specialties but if all you can do is regurgitate what you have seen in the interview, you are unlikely to get accepted. The admissions panel place a heavy emphasis on reflection so spend more time on understanding the placement you have undertaken.

How to use your work experience to write your personal statement?

It is worth familiarising yourself with the General Medical Council’s (GMC) website. They have a lot of useful documents which has some of the requirements that they look for in the new generation of doctors. Once you have found some of the qualities they look for, then reflect on your placement and talk about how your experience has highlighted this.

Is going abroad for work experience the best way to make your personal statement?

The simple answer is no. Going abroad can be very expensive. It will only be useful if it fills in the gap in your knowledge about what it takes to be a doctor. An important thing to note is that sometimes, aspiring medics jump at the opportunity to carry out specific skills that they have been asked to do. It is important that you keep in mind that YOU are in no way trained to do any medical procedures on patients. Not only are you putting patients at risk, but you will also be taking advantage of vulnerable people.

I took advantage of the fact that I had family living in South Africa and I was able to carry out two weeks of work experience at a hospital and volunteer in an orphanage. This affirmed my ambition to set up an organisation in developing countries to provide free healthcare services in the future.

Good luck with finding some placements this summer and I’d love to hear about your placements!



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