Both work experience and voluntary work are extremely important for a Medical Application. As I have said in some of my blog posts, I was unsuccessful in my first attempt to get into Medical School. This was due to two things: the BMAT and my low levels of work experience. In fact, I don’t know anyone who has managed to get into Medical School without any work experience.
Similarly, voluntary work is important. You don’t need to do voluntary work at some obscure place – the most important thing is for you to improve your interpersonal skills and show dedication to something.
Hospital work experience
This is perhaps the best form of experience that you can get. It is not easy to get, however, so don’t stress if you can’t.
See if you shadow a member of the healthcare team around for a bit. This is simply following them around and seeing what their day-to-day tasks are. You don’t need to shadow a doctor – it can be any member of the healthcare team, including nurses, HCAs, speech and language therapists, you name it.
As I already said, it is not easy to arrange such experience. If you know anyone who works in a hospital, see if they can help you. If not, Google your local hospital and see if you can find the email of some consultants. Try contacting them, although prepare to be disappointed. It is likely you will need to send hundreds of emails before getting anywhere, and there is no guarantee that you’ll actually manage to get somewhere either. It is worth a try, however.
GP work experience
Like hospital work experience, this is not easy to get. The main issue is that of patient confidentiality – many practices are unwilling to risk anything getting out. For that reason, it is very difficult to get work experience at the GP practice where you are registered. Instead, look for other GP practices that are far from home. It is important to realise again, however, that this will not give you a guarantee of a placement either.
Pharmacy/Dental/lab based work experience
Many applicants ask if other related work experience, such as that done in a pharmacy or dental practice, could be useful for a Medical application. If you have nothing else, then it could well be useful – but only if you think it taught you something about the medical field. I managed to get pharmacy experience myself too, although I didn’t mention it on my personal statement in the end. This was because I was in the fortunate position where I felt I had learnt more stuff on my other work experience placements.
These types of experience are probably much easier to arrange than hospital/GP work experience. You’ll need to contact pharmacies/dentists/scientists etc. to be able to arrange these.
Much easier to organise than work experience is voluntary work.
This can be anything from volunteering at your local hospital to volunteering at a charity shop. Anything which helps you develop your skills to improve you as a person will be worth it. There are many opportunities that you will be able to find. As a starting point, look at the NHS voluntary page to see if you can find anything there. Please note that NHS volunteering is pretty tough to get, so make sure you apply early.
If that fails, try looking into your local hospice. The availability of places depends on which area you work in – some, such as mine, are always looking for volunteers and help. Otherwise, if you have any contacts, try getting in touch with them to see if they can help.
Finally, have a look at: https://do-it.org/. They are an organisation that can help you find voluntary work.
When should I apply for work experience/voluntary work?
Early. Very early.
Some places have waiting lists that are months long and, bearing in mind that you’ll need to apply in October of Year 13, this leaves you with little time. Make sure you apply early to avoid disappointment.