Experience, experience, EXPERIENCE!
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Experience, experience, EXPERIENCE!


It is important to realize that work experience, especially when it comes to medical-related work experience is first and foremost for you to gain insight into the field of medicine you can envisage yourself practising for the rest of your life. I am guilty of stressing about getting the perfect hospital experience. I became worried when I was “rejected” from GP surgeries or community-based healthcare work. However, more importantly than being something to write on your CV, this is an opportunity for you to experience various areas of medicine. It is important in helping you to identify a field that is most suited for you. 
Work experience is an essential step for getting into medical school. Not only will you be able to decide for yourself which aspects of medicine you enjoy, but it also gives you a perfect chance to draw from when answering the inevitable question “Why a doctor and not a nurse/ allied health professional?

There are lots of opportunities available to gain invaluable experience that doesn’t involve a week at your hospital (because granted that can be very difficult to get, more so now than ever!) The main aim is to give you an insight into what healthcare professionals do and to challenge any beliefs you may hold subconsciously about what different jobs entail.

It is really important to have a look at different universities’ specifications surrounding work experience. They often have helpful links to different organisations and specify exactly what they want you to be able to show from your experience.


Types of Experience:


Volunteering: 

  • St John’s Ambulance, for example, is a great organisation to get involved with. Their website has a postcode search filter where you can search for volunteering opportunities near you.
  • The Royal Voluntary Service also has plenty of voluntary opportunities, many of which will be based in hospitals, such as working in the café or shop. It also has other opportunities such as befriending services. All these opportunities are key to giving insight into the different aspects of medicine.


GP / Hospital:

  • This can be difficult to get at times, but it is worth contacting your local GP and asking if they run any placements.
  • Asking your careers' coordinator about work experience placements at your local hospital could also be very useful.
  • Finally, making use of any family members or friends who work as healthcare professionals is great. They can often help to arrange work experience or at least point you in the right direction of someone who could help.


Hospices or Care Homes:

  • Volunteering or working at a care home will give you great insight into the care of the elderly. As the aged population of the UK increases, care of the elderly is becoming an increasingly large aspect of medicine. So, work experience in care homes or hospices will prepare you to learn to deal with the elderly, sensitively, and in a dignified manner.


Top tips while on work experience:

  1. Keep a diary

I think it’s so easy to think, “yeah, of course, I’ll remember what I did every day” and put off recording what you did until months after you’ve finished the placement, but I cannot stress how useful this will be if you do it at the time.
You can reflect on all the patient contact you’ve had, what you learnt and what you would do differently next time.
Equally, if you see a doctor approaching a patient in a really lovely way, think about (and write down) what it was that you liked about that interaction, and possibly more importantly, if you think “I didn’t actually like the way that consultation/ conversation was conducted” you can write down what made you feel uncomfortable and what you would have done differently. But remember to never write patient details down and keep all your notes completely confidential.



  1. Ask questions
Being enthusiastic and self-motivated are two key qualities of a doctor and if you’re able to show this from early on, then even better! I have learnt that doctors absolutely love talking about their speciality!
If you can engage with them, ask about why they made certain decisions or asking them to clarify things you don’t understand. They will see that you’re committed and will be more likely to help you or teach you. I think this is important to remember, right the way through from work experience to medical school!



  1. Be professional
Many of the patients will assume that you are medical students and would expect you to act as such, and likewise, you will be in a working environment so staff will also see you as future colleagues. Make a good impression! Dress appropriately, be polite and ask if you are unsure. It is a privilege to be allowed to be with patients when they are at their most vulnerable and they will almost definitely remember the people who were around them at this time.
Be really open-minded and be willing to let yourself absorb the experience. It is a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the working environment,  even if you think "this isn't really for me."  As long as you have made the most of the experience, noted what you have learnt and reflected on this, you will have a great starting point for an interview.
As it shows that you are proactive, have shown initiative and are committed to your future career! Best of luck! 



Image References:
Image 1: http://medblog.medlink-uk.net/israahmed/2017/11/15/tips-for-students-considering-medicine/
Header Image: https://www.drzembroski.com/darien-center-for-functional-medicine/functional-medicine/functionl-medicine-header-2/







Originally published 08 August 2020 , updated 08/08/2020

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