Alex | Founder of Medfully
27 Feb 8 min read

Medicine Work Experience 2022: All You Need To Know | Medfully Blog


You are planning to apply to medical schools in the UK and you are constantly hearing about “medicine work experience”.

You hear about a student from your school who just secured a work experience placement at a renowned cardiovascular centre in London. You haven’t and you start to worry.

But is there really a reason to worry? What counts towards work experience? Is online medicine work experience any worse than hospital work experience? Should I pay for medicine work experience?

We have explored these and many other questions below:


🎟️ Is work experience necessary to get into UK medical school?

Short answer: Yes, medical work experience is necessary to get into UK medical school, but hospital work experience isn’t in 2022.

In the era of Covid-19, most medical schools have relaxed their work experience requirements, in terms of the traditional hospital medicine work experience. However, all medical schools still require you to get an insight into what it means to be a doctor, which is the whole point of medicine work experience. You can check the exact requirements of each of the medical schools in this list curated by TheMedicPortal.

🚀  TOP Tip: Don’t treat work experience as a checkbox exercise or this obstacle on your way to medical school. Work experience is an excellent learning opportunity for you - to see if being a doctor is really what you want to pursue. And let’s be honest, you won’t learn that by watching Grey’s Anatomy or The Good Doctor.


🏥 What counts as medicine work experience?

Now that you know you should get some form of medicine work experience, let’s try to understand what this umbrella term means.

Medical work experience can be anything that involves a) a clinical/medical setting b) caring for other people or c) a non-medical role that requires a skill set that overlaps with the one required for doctors. This includes:

  • shadowing hospital doctors on the wards (or any other member of the healthcare team)
  • shadowing a GP at a GP surgery
  • working as a healthcare assistant
  • volunteering at a care home, hospice, St John’s ambulance, pharmacy or any other health and social care setting
  • working as a lifeguard

Moreover, it can be anything that gives you insight into medicine, such as an online work experience course, a longer discussion with your parents’ friend who is a doctor or reading a medical memoir.


🔍 How to get work experience in 2022?

How do you get your work experience, naturally depends on the form you choose. Overall, in-person medical work experience is more immersive and closer to the realities of being a doctor, while online medicine work experience is far easier to arrange (especially during Covid-19).

Check out this other blog we’ve written about 4 Ways To Get Medicine Work Experience in 2022 | Medfully Blog, where we outline how to get hospital work experience or volunteering in 2022 and link the best resources that count as online medicine work experience.

🚀  TOP Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask and stay persistent. Seeking work experience can be a daunting and frustrating task. However, if you won’t keep asking and trying, you won’t succeed. Worst case scenario the doctor/hospital/charity will say no and you’ll have to move on. Scary, but not the end of the world, right?


✋ Volunteering Work Experience Ideas:

Volunteering is a fantastic way to learn more about caring for others while giving back to society. Any volunteering related to healthcare or that involves caring for someone can count as medicine work experience. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • St John’s Ambulance
  • Care home
  • Hospice
  • Teaching
  • Pharmacy
  • Life-guard
  • Disability centres
  • Support groups

🚀 TOP Tip: Whatever form of work experience you ultimately pursue, try to make the most out of the time you are there. Take every incentive and be proactive. Take advantage of every opportunity - ask questions, talk to the patients, ask the staff if you could help them with their duties, ask if you can observe. Be polite and understandable if they decline, but don’t let it discourage you.


🔢 How much work experience do I need for medicine?

Number of work experience placements: More “work experiences” doesn’t increase your chances of getting in by definition. Having said that, it’s good to get exposed to a variety of different medical settings. Medicine is a multidimensional field and each work experience can help you discover a different aspect of medicine:

For example, volunteering at a local care home can help you learn first-hand that helping ill patients brings you a lot of satisfaction or how challenging it can get to communicate with patients when they are ill and their cognition is impaired. On the other hand, shadowing a pharmacist can show you the importance of sturdy scientific knowledge, diligence or the power of medications.

Length: Length matters slightly more than the number of wards you’ve visited or the number of placements you undertook. Compare the following: Person A volunteered at a hospice once a week for 6 months and person B shadowed a GP for 3 days. Who do you think learned more about medicine?

Both could have different learning experiences, making it difficult to compare. However, through the length of their work experience, person A demonstrates passion and commitment to medicine. Person B may have had closer contact with doctors, but mostly saw what medicine is like. Person A, on the other hand, may have had the chance to develop their interpersonal skills - work on their communication skills, empathy or professionalism.

The bottom line: There is no minimum threshold to how much work experience you need for medicine. Having several, varied experiences can give you a more realistic and comprehensive picture of medicine. Longer placements can give you the opportunity to develop skills related to medicine, unlike work experience where you only observe how things function.

🚀 TOP Tip: Want to learn how to talk about work experience in medical school interviews? All the knowledge you need to ace your medicine interviews can be found here.


⏰ When to get work experience for medicine (2022)?

The earlier the better. Whether you are in year 10, year 12, 16 years old or 18, it doesn’t matter and you can equally benefit from it.

Many students will try to organise it around the same time (summer), meaning the demand in some places may be high and you might not be successful in a given year. That’s why you shouldn’t leave getting work experience (especially volunteering or hospital shadowing) until summer between year 12 and year 13. Moreover, arranging work experience may require organising some paperwork or sitting an interview, which can take extra time.

🚀 TOP Tip: Start looking early for in-person work experience. If you secure work experience early on, for instance in year 11 or 12 you can always supplement it with online work experience or extra volunteering (which are easier to arrange) at a later date.


💰 Should I pay for work experience (2022)?

Various companies offer work experience abroad or paid opportunities to shadow doctors in a hospital. These sound like tempting offers - having “medicine work experience in a developing country” may seem like a unique point for your personal statement.

Don’t be fooled by their marketing, however. Paid medicine work experience doesn’t give you an edge over a person with other types of work experience. It’s not about what you see or experience, but about your reflections.

Moreover, some of the companies are mostly profit-driven and despite great marketing efforts, they don’t provide more insightful opportunities than sitting at a GP practice for a day.


💻 Does a person with hospital work experience have an advantage over someone with online work experience?

Short answer: No. If you don’t show genuine, deep reflections on your personal statement and during the interview it doesn’t matter if you can have shadowed doctors in 5 different hospitals, on 10 different wards.

Both an online work experience and hospital work experience can provide you with numerous food for reflection. Especially in 2022, in times of Covid-19, no medical school will look down on online work experience, even if that’s the only form of work experience you have.

Here is a list of work experience requirements for each UK medical school.


💭 How to reflect on medical work experience:

You hear everywhere that medicine work experience is all about reflections. But how do you reflect on your work experience? The best way is to keep a reflections journal:

During the work experience, whether it be volunteering, hospital placement or an online work experience course, dedicate a notebook to writing your thoughts. Throughout the day, write down what you saw, did and how it made you feel. After the day’s work, take 20-30 minutes to think about what happened in more depth and write it down:

You can use some of the following questions: What did the experience show me about medicine? What qualities and skills did I observe or use myself? How did the patients feel? How did I feel about it - stressed, joyful, energised, low?

Thanks to the reflections journal you’ll be able to recall your reflections with ease when you sit down to write the personal statement or at the interview stage.

🚀 TOP Tip: Want to learn how to talk about work experience in medical school interviews? All the knowledge you need to ace your medicine interviews can be found here.


Summary:

Start searching for medicine work experience as early as you can (year 10, year 11, year 12). Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get accepted by a doctor or a volunteering organisation - keep on trying.

Try out volunteering in a healthcare setting. It’s easier to arrange than hospital work experience in 2022, but it’s an equally great way to learn about working in healthcare, whilst also contributing to the community.

Paid work experience doesn’t give you any advantage.

Online medicine work experience is as valuable as in-person work experience and isn’t looked down upon by medical schools.

Check out our detailed guide about how to get medicine work experience in 2022.

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