May 28, 2014, by studentcontributor

Work experience

tjHi, I’m TJ and I’m just about to finish my first clinical placement in Mansfield. I’m going to be talking about the thing that your application to medical school is incomplete without: work experience!


As well as being an important part of your personal statement, work experience is actually really useful in a number of ways. Becoming a doctor is a life-long commitment; it’s amazing and satisfying and exciting but also a lot of hard work and you want to be as sure as possible that it’s right for you! Work experience lets you have an insight into what your life might be like in 10-20 years as well as giving you an opportunity to talk to lots of different doctors and find out what they love and what they hate… By taking the initiative to find out about your future career, it shows you’re interested in it and well informed.


Lots of students find it really hard to get work shadowing, especially when they’re only 16 or 17. I had to send a lot of emails before I found mine. You have to start early and be persistent! Here are some options:

  • Phone or email the hospitals in your area and ask nicely if they have a work experience scheme (many do) or if there is someone you could shadow
  • Ask family and friends if they know any doctors who might let you follow them
  • Ask at GP practices in your area (or slightly further out to avoid confidentiality issues)
  • See if any university societies arrange work experience, such as the work experience programme arranged by WAMS in Nottingham

It’s also good to get some long-term experience in a caring role because Medicine involves a lot of this!

  • Helping out at a school, after-school club or youth club
  • Helping out at mealtimes in hospitals
  • Helping with the patient library
  • Working in a hospice or care home
  • Working in a charity shop
  • Getting a part time job in a pharmacy, opticians or as a GP receptionist (although any part time job will help you build up important skills like organisation, punctuality and communication)
  • Volunteering for a first aid organisation such as St. John’s Ambulance
  • Volunteering at a homeless shelter

Top tips

  1. Make the most of your work experience–it’s a really great chance to talk to patients, doctors and other healthcare professionals, see many things and really catch the medicine bug.
  2. At the end of the day/week, write down what you did, what skills you used, what you learnt about being a doctor and how it made you feel. This will help loads when you come to writing your statement and interviews and will hopefully also be inspiring.
  3. Apply for things you’re interested in but if not, make the most of whatever you do get and remember what you’re hoping to get out of the experience.
  4. Keep your eyes and ears open and be nice to everyone you meet because you might run into them again a few years later when you’re a medical student or a qualified doctor!

Most importantly, it’s exciting so enjoy it!

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