Work experience

An important part of the application process, providing insight into real-life work environments. 
The purpose of work experience is to understand what it means to study medicine and practice as a doctor and to demonstrate that you have the relevant insight and are able to demonstrate you have some of the key qualities which you have observed. The online resources mentioned below provide an opportunity to learn most of what is possible on actual work placements and give you the opportunity to observe and reflect.

Watch now: An overview of how work experience will benefit your application, from Aston Medical School Admissions Lead, Dr Afshan Ahmad.

What is work experience?

Work experience involves spending time in a professional environment with the aim of finding out more about 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 that you truly understand the profession that you are applying to enter.

Experience is especially important in medicine as it gives you an insight in to what working in a medical or healthcare setting is really like. For example, you will see 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 healthcare setting such as a hospital, 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 (résumé) so it is important to have one prepared. Organisations will also want to know why you want to undertake work experience with them, so is important to explain that you wish to study Medicine and need to gain insight into a medical environment.

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

Once you have secured work experience, you need to prepare. Think about 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 necessary to work in this field, that is even better. 
You may wish to think about looking 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 limitations (what happens when a doctor realises that a problem is outside their expertise and they need to refer the patient to someone who specialises 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 or 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? 

Some Medical Schools in the UK require applicants to have undertaken medical work experience. However, we recognise that not everyone will be able to secure this, and that it is still possible to gain valuable, relevant work experience in a non-medical environment. For example, working in a hospital shop will mean that you deal with all kinds of patients and people while developing your communication, teamwork and leadership skills. 

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 then you will have realised that they need to have their dignity maintained – another aspect of what is expected from a doctor. 

By bringing these characteristics together and being able to demonstrate that you have them, you will show that you understand some of what it means to be a good doctor and have the ability 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.