Careers Service

Gaining Experience

Gaining Experience

Relevant experience is essential so you can demonstrate interpersonal skills and understand what constitutes good patient care.

Patients often feel vulnerable, angry or distressed, and you’ll need to respond effectively. You will also need to keep up-to-date with developments in healthcare through the press (the BBC; The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, The Telegraph).

If your related experience was gained at school, you’ll need to get more recent experience to reflect your continued dedication to the profession. If your experience was gained overseas, you will ideally need to gain UK-based experience too.

You’ll need a good understanding of the NHS. This is particularly true for accelerated/graduate entry courses, so it helps to get experience within the UK system. The Medical Schools Council has Guidance on relevant experience for applying to medical school (PDF: 642 KB) as does the Medic Portal - they also have guidance on the type of work experience preferred by specific Medical Schools

Finding relevant experience

Many applicants volunteer in healthcare or take part-time care work roles. This brings you into contact with vulnerable people of different ages and exposes you to challenging situations.

Care work with the elderly, the homeless or at-risk young people provides you with an understanding of people ‘in crises’ outside traditional healthcare settings. This will develop your listening, empathy and communication skills and enable you be a more effective practitioner.

Examples of relevant experience in a medical or health related field include:

Where to find paid opportunities

Where to find voluntary experience

  • Go Volunteer, based in the Students’ Union have a range of relevant volunteering projects including working with the elderly, children, and people with physical, mental or learning disabilities.
  • Do-it – opportunities across the UK in a wide range of roles including: disability, drugs and addictions, health and social care, mental health, the elderly.
  • Some volunteering opportunities are available in the NHS. Contact NHS Trusts directly to find out what is available.
  • St John Ambulance
  • See Volunteering for more opportunities and also organisations offering relevant overseas projects in developing countries. (There is usually a cost involved in these).  An online search will also bring up many more organisations but do your research before handing over any money

See our Healthcare page Gaining Experience section for additional relevant opportunities. 

See also BMA Work experience - advice for students

Shadowing and hospital experience

Shadowing health professionals provides valuable experience. You will be observing rather than conducting patient interactions or procedures.

Making contacts gives suggestions of potential contacts to approach. The NHS service search tool has details of local health teams you could contact speculatively about shadowing. 

Hospitals occasionally offer shadowing but pressures on staff mean that they can’t provide the level of supervision to meet demand. Placements may only last a few days and sometimes take place in term-time.

Many hospitals have a dedicated staff member who deals with placements, and would prefer that you didn’t ring consultants directly.

Check the hospital/NHS Trust website for information. If you are unable to find this information, ring the hospital switchboard and ask to speak to the placement co-ordinator.

Newcastle hospital experience

Newcastle NHS Foundation Trust offers a one-day work shadowing placement each Easter break. 

They take a small number of students applying to medicine and the placement is open to penultimate and final year undergraduates and postgraduates on any degree. This is the primary way of gaining experience in a Newcastle hospital. The shadowing is advertised here and through relevant schools.

The application process has now closed for 2019.

Physician Associate Shadowing 

Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals (NHS Foundation Trust) also offers one day of work shadowing for 4 students interested in becoming a Physician Associate in the Easter break. This opportunity is open to penultimate and final year students only, and they welcome applications from undergraduates and postgraduates on any degree programme.

Applications are only be considered from students NOT applying for the doctors hospital work shadowing above.

The application process has now closed for 2019.

To find out more about becoming a Physician Associate visit Healthcare.