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Work experience

The purpose of work experience is to enable you to understand what it is like to be in the work environment that you are thinking of pursuing a career in. It is also an important part of the application process.

Watch now: 

An overview of how work experience will benefit your application from Dr Afshan Ahmad, Aston Medical School Admissions Tutor

What is work experience?

Work experience involves spending time in a professional environment with the aim of finding out more about the environment itself, such as what happens there, professional expectations, timekeeping, dress codes, how to interact with others and so on. Importantly it will give you first hand experience of what it is actually like to work in that setting. In addition, it will help you to demonstrate to Admissions Tutors that you truly understand the profession that you are applying to enter.  

It is especially important in medicine as it gives you an insight in to what it’s really like in a medical or healthcare setting. For example you will see how people work, how people interact with each other, and what is actually involved in their day-to-day role.

How can I get work experience? 

It can be very competitive to gain work experience in a health care setting, such as a hospital, a doctor’s surgery or a care home. This is because there may be many more people wanting to gain work experience than there are opportunities available. You will have to apply and may have to submit a CV (resume) so it is important to have one prepared. Organisations will also want to know why you want to undertake work experience with them. For that reason it is important to give your reasons, for example that you wish to study medicine and so therefore you wish to gain an insight into life in a medical environment.

How can I utilise my work experience effectively in my personal statement?

Once you have secured work experience, in order to make the most of it you need to prepare. Think about what you will see and what you want to gain from the experience. You will need to observe, reflect on what you have seen and then be able to write about it. If you are able to relate it to yourself and show that you have the qualities, then that is even better. 

For example, you may wish to think about looking out for examples of the skills that doctors are expected to have (and what you will be tested upon during the application process and at medical school). This will include things like:

  • Teamwork (who are the doctors working with?)
  • Compassion (how are the doctors dealing with patients?)
  • Knowing their limitations (what happens when a doctor realises that a problem is not their expertise and needs to refer the patient to someone who is an expert in that area?)
  • Dealing with a wide range of patients and illnesses (how does a doctor respond differently to someone cancer, compared to someone with a baby, compared to someone who has come in to discuss a relative who has dementia?).

Visit our UCAS and personal statement page to find out more. 

What if I can’t source work experience? 

Most Medical Schools in the UK require applicants to have undertaken medical work experience. At Aston Medical School we recognise that not everyone will be able to secure medical work experience, and that it is possible to get the same outlook, experience and qualities by doing work experience in a non-medical environment too. For example, working in a hospital shop will mean that you deal with all kinds of patients and people and allow you to develop your communication skills, teamwork skills, following instructions, and leadership skills. 

Another area where you can show ability and understanding of what medicine is all about and that you can deliver care and compassion is if you happen to have a family member that is ill or elderly with multiple health complaints. If you have been involved in their care then you will have realised that they are vulnerable, that they need to have their dignity maintained – again, many of the aspects of what is expected from a doctor. 

By bringing these characteristics together and being able to demonstrate that you have them, it will show that you have the understanding of what it means to be a good doctor and to be able to cope with the study and practice of medicine.

How can I find out more?

This section of the Medic Portal website has further advice.