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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.

UPDATE: work experience during COVID

We are well aware that students who were hoping to obtain hands on work experience in a clinical or other healthcare setting have not been able to do so because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As standard, here at Aston Medical School we do not require applicants to provide evidence of healthcare related work experience on their personal statement or in answer to questions in MMI stations, this is the same during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, it is important that anyone who is considering applying to medicine has a realistic view of what is involved in studying and practicing medicine and is able to articulate their reasons for choosing this course of study. With this in mind, The Royal College of General Practitioners have developed an online resource called Observe GP, which is a virtual platform providing comprehensive insight into the work of general practitioners and other healthcare professionals. Brighton and Sussex Medical School have also developed a virtual online course on work experience for those who are considering applying to study medicine. This is a comprehensive course which provides information about the NHS as well as exploring the variety of issues faced by doctors. The course also looks at different medical specialities which is helpful in reflecting on the variety of skill sets which are required in practicing medicine.

Living through and experiencing a pandemic can also be used when reflecting on healthcare, work of doctors and the importance of leadership, teamwork and collaboration. Applicants should be able to talk about their experience during this time and their observations and reflection on the COVID-19 pandemic.

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 above 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 Dr Afshan Ahmad, Aston Medical School Admissions Lead

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 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.