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How can I get medical and healthcare work experience? February 24, 2010

Posted by Helen Curry in : Medicine and Healthcare , trackback

****Be aware this content is over two years old****

Getting the right healthcare work experience is key to a successful application to medical school, but it is not always the easiest thing to find. Fortunately there are plenty of information sources that can help you out – and you won’t need family contacts to get it.

First of all, how do you know if an opportunity will count? Bear in mind that you need to demonstrate:

One placement or work experience opportunity does not have to cover all of these, in fact medical schools will expect you to have at least two or three, and you can include some non-healthcare experience too e.g. coping with difficult customers in a part-time bar job. On the healthcare front, mix it up – you can get valid experience from working in a range of settings, not just hospitals and GP surgeries, but also hospices, care homes, children’s playschemes, volunteering for counselling helplines and more… Direct caring interactions are particularly important (not just filing papers in a back-office). Here are some ideas and links to get you started:

Please note, The Careers Group, University of London is unable to guarantee the details of every opportunity listed here, so check the details of all opportunities before applying. This list is not comprehensive. Inclusion does constitute a recommendation. No responsibility will be taken by The Careers Group, University of London, for loss or damage, direct or consequential, resulting from the use of services or information provided by maintainers of these links.



Use the NHS services search to find your local hospitals and search their websites or the websites of their NHS Trust to find more opportunities.

Paid caring work


Remember to check in with your university volunteering centre/service too – they can be a great way to find local volunteering and you may be surprised at the health-related opportunities they have available or can find for you.

Counselling helplines

Work shadowing

Traditionally many people arrange a couple of days following a doctor through personal connections – think you don’t have any? You could try writing to, and/or visiting local GP surgeries, to ask if you could shadow a doctor or perhaps a nurse. You should supply a CV and covering letter demonstrating your interest in medicine as a career.

If that is not getting you results, try:

NB work-shadowing alone will not be enough for a Graduate Entry to Medicine application. You will need long-term and hands-on caring experience too.


A number of gap-year type organisations can offer hands-on medical experience or work in orphanages – a real eye-opener but it can be expensive. You can look in the ‘community development’ opportunities of the established general gap year organisations such as i-to-i or BUNAC. Alternatively for some very medicine-oriented opportunities see:

NB people often have variable experiences with gap-year organisations. I recommend googling for reviews before making a payment.

Good luck!



1. Ruth Chapman - 26 February 2010

For aspiring medics and nurses there is now the option to take a gap year designed to help you gain specific medical or nursing experience on a placement in a developing country hospital. Unlike other gap year volunteer companies offering medical placements, Gap Medics focuses on creating a learning experience that will actually give you something to use in your uni applications, talk about at interview or refer to in pre-clinical years. As sister company to the well established university healthcare electives company – Work the World – Gap Medics offers a combination of lectures, demonstrations, shadowing and working within the hospital.

2. volunteer abroad - 14 September 2010

Not just in medicine but also in many other fields, experience is becoming more and more important. I think its great that there are so many placements on offer. Classroom knowledge is essential but speaking as a person who has been on a placement, there is no substitute for practical work experience. However placements are becoming more and more competitive. If young people really do want the opportunity to get work experience I think they should strongly consider applying abroad or volunteering their services for free.

3. Social Care Volunteers - 17 August 2012

or you can use Social Care Volunteers,they find placements for volunteers from the EU who are interested in volunteering in the health and social care sector within the EU.