Work Experience


Work experience is an important element of your application that demonstrates commitment and an understanding of the career upon which you are about to embark. It has never been easy to obtain placements in a medical setting such as a hospital or GP surgery, and COVID restrictions have made these virtually impossible. However, the pandemic has opened up a wider range of volunteering opportunities in helping the elderly and vulnerable. What you do is less important than what you have learnt from it, and showing understanding and empathy is as valuable, if not more so, than a week observing hospital procedures.

What the profession requires #

The Medical Schools Council states that it is essential applicants gain people-focused experience of providing care or service. This can be:

  •  Working with other people in a caring or service role, and in particular with people who are ill, disabled or disadvantaged. (Strongly recommended)
  • Direct observation of healthcare.

A weekend job in a shop can provide relevant experience just as much as shadowing a doctor. What is important is how you approach it, what you learn from it, and how you express it in your personal statement and at an interview.

Record your work experience #

Keep a portfolio of everything relevant you have done, including what you have learnt from the experience and any research you were prompted to do as a result.

Let people know #

Include it in your UCAS application of course, but also make sure your teachers are aware of what you are doing, for when they write your reference. Better still, BLOG about it. Include details of what you feel you are achieving – but remember to preserve confidentiality if you are talking about particular cases.

Visit our free blog site by clicking here where you can create your blog and we will share it with every medical school in the country and with your school

Getting an insight into the medical profession #

If you can’t get a placement to observe a medic, then you can try talking to one. They are very busy people but may spare time if you offer to interview them for your blog on a specific topic like how they see the pandemic has changed their role. Most medical schools have student ambassadors who can be chatted to on their websites, and this can help you learn more about what it feels like to be a medic.

Virtual work experience #

Not designed to replace the real thing, but nevertheless a useful and safe way to experience work as a doctor are the free programmes offered by Brighton and Sussex Medical School*, the Royal College of General Practitioners*, and Medic Mentor. The GMC and NHS England have developed a virtual reality app on patient experience.

*Recognised by the Medical Schools Council

Volunteering #

There are lots of opportunities for volunteering. Check with your local community charities or check out websites like these:

What the medical schools are looking for #

Generally, medical schools are looking for you to learn and reflect on your experience, whatever it may be, and to be able to discuss it. You need to show how it has given you more understanding of what it is to be a doctor, including the physical and emotional demands, and that it has helped you in developing relevant skills, such as communication, observation, and teamwork.

For the medical schools you really want to apply to, check their websites to see all they have to say, but in the following table, there are some thoughts and suggestions from medical schools around the country

What Each Medical School Says About Work Experience #

University What they say
Rather than just list all the work experience that has been undertaken, it is more revealing if you can tell us what you have learned about a medical career and its implications.
Anglia Ruskin
Clinical and non-clinical experience are important, which could be in a nursing home, nursery, charities, voluntary organisations, pharmacy as well as GP surgeries and hospitals.
Another area where you can show ability and understanding of what medicine is all about is delivering care and compassion to family members that are ill or elderly, if you've been involved in their care
If you have been unable to observe a professional delivering care or support or been unable to do this yourself, the next best experience is a virtual patient interaction.
Brighton and Sussex
We do expect candidates to have had some experience of engaging with a wide range of people and understand the realities of a caring profession.
We encourage you to seek opportunities to develop your awareness of your intended career, and the skills and attributes required eg online research, supporting your families & communities during the pandemic.
Usually we are looking for experiences that indicate a candidate has been exposed to the realities of a career in medicine. (Due to pandemic not requiring any work experience for this recruitment cycle.)
Has no specific requirements.
Work experience demonstrates commitment to your intended profession and gives you the opportunity to acquire greater understanding of the realities and pressures associated with that career.
University What they say
Looking for people-focused experience, providing care or help to others. Quality and variety are important. It’s not about what you’ve done, it’s about what you’ve got out of it.
Think about what skills you gained or what you learnt through observation. Reflect on how this experience will help you as a doctor.
East Anglia (Norwich)
Any experience that gives you an insight into your suitability to the profession is valuable. At interview, you’ll be expected to draw on your personal experiences to demonstrate your suitability to be a doctor.
Edge Hill
No specific work experience is asked for.
We are looking for clear evidence of reflection on these experiences, showing us what personal lessons you took from them and using these to demonstrate an aptitude for medicine.
Work experience is not part of our standard entry requirements and therefore whether you have work experience or not, you are very welcome to apply to our programme.
An interest in caring for others is expected, which can be demonstrated through voluntary/paid work in a community setting.
Hull York
Gaining experience in a range of caring or service situations, observing or working alongside healthcare staff will be beneficial to an application (care homes, hospices, pharmacies, community voluntary organizations)
University What they say
Imperial College, London
We require an understanding of the realities of working as a healthcare professional and applicants to show they have the necessary skills and attributes for their chosen career.
At interview you will be questioned on examples of regular hands-on experience involving supporting, helping or caring for people (these are not expected to be medical).
Kent & Medway
We consider work experience to be valuable for medical school applicants and recognise that many applicants have already been active in volunteering and community work before the Covid outbreak.
King’s College, London
Voluntary work is essential; you need to prove you are committed to helping others in your community. Work experience in a clinical setting is not a pre-requisite for entry to medical school.
Relevant experience in a healthcare environment is important but you can also draw on non-healthcare work experience, if you can relate the skills you developed to your chosen career.
Personal experience in a health and social care setting can make you more confident about choosing a career in medicine. Anywhere clinical care is delivered is acceptable eg community pharmacy, chiropodist etc.
Medical work experience is not essential but you should be able to demonstrate that you have undertaken some kind of work where you are able to communicate with the public.
Applicants should complete regular work experience. This can be volunteering in a care related setting, volunteering with disadvantaged groups, or paid employment in a job working with the general public.
University What they say
You are advised, as a minimum, to read the ‘statement on the core values and attributes needed to study medicine’ and ‘work experience guidelines for applicants to medicine’.
Applicants should gain some insight into what the role of a doctor involves. Shadowing doctors in a hospital/GP setting is not essential or considered to be a substitute for hands-on caring work experience.
Does not have specific work experience requirements, but at interview will look for a commitment to caring such as helping someone less fortunate or volunteering in a hospice nursery or elderly care home.
No specific work experience requirements.
Any form of voluntary work would be beneficial in the context of applying for Medicine (such as helping out in a hospital, at an old people's home, St John's Ambulance, or work with a charity).
Plymouth (Peninsula)
They do not currently consider personal statements or work experience when selecting for interview.
Queen Mary, London (Bart’s & The London)
Strongly recommend applicants explore what a career in medicine entails, and this is reinforced by work experience. Volunteering in a caring role can be as valuable as medical work experience..
Queen’s, Belfast
Clinical work experience is not specified as a requirement for admission. Applicants are encouraged to obtain caring experience either through volunteering or in paid employment.
University What they say
Participatory work experience (not simply observing) is extremely valuable. Recommend keeping a journal of what you found interesting, what insights you gained and what inspired you to find out more.
Applicants must show they have reflected on, and learnt from, life experiences (this may include work experience, paid employment and personal experience, both in and outside health and social care settings)
St Andrews
Require work or shadowing experience in a caring or health environment. This could be in hospitals, GP surgeries, nursing homes or local hospices, or working with people who have ill health or a disability.
St George’s, London
Requirements are currently relaxed but still require applicants to have an understanding of the realities of working as a healthcare professional and to show they have the necessary skills and attributes.
Want evidence of commitment to work experience, voluntary work, exposure to a caring or supportive role, the value of the work/role you undertook, the level of responsibility taken in any of the above roles.
Swansea (graduate entry only)
No specific requirements.
Ulster (graduate entry only)
No specific requirements.
University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN)
Work experience and/or volunteering can be mentoring young children, helping elderly members of the community with shopping, helping in a hospice, or working with disadvantaged groups.
University College, London
The ability to demonstrate and reflect on what you learn, about yourself and about medicine, through work experience is the main factor we are looking for when assessing your work experience.
Require minimum 2 weeks (70 hours) full-time across at least two placements in the last 4 years. Must include experience of a healthcare environment, and of direct hands-on care of people/patients.
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