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Everything you need to know about healthcare work experience

Healthcare work experience is crucial if you’d like to work in medicine or healthcare. However, getting GP clinic or hospital work experience is also extremely valuable for other job roles too, as it gives you plenty of transferable skills that you can put to use in your future career.

In this guide we’ll look at the benefits of healthcare placements, what they involve and where you can find opportunities.

Why should I apply for healthcare work experience?

Let’s firstly take a look at the benefits of doing work experience in hospitals or other healthcare settings.

Work experience is crucial if you want to become a doctor
  1. It lets you try out a particular job role to see if it’s the right fit for you. Work experience helps you choose the right career. You’ll see what roles in healthcare there are.
  2. If you do have a specific healthcare role in mind, then the placement may be crucial for entry to training in that role, or for a university course.
  3. It gives you an insight into a real-life working environment (specifically you’ll see how a hospital or clinic is run).
  4. You’ll get a chance to develop your key skills that can be applied in all jobs, for example: teamwork, communication, people skills, taking the initiative, and plenty more.
  5. It’s a fantastic addition to your CV, allowing you to show employers not only these transferable skills, but also your commitment and motivation.
  6. You’ll gain experience of caring for people, will will develop your compassion and empathy.  
  7. You’ll gain confidence and self-esteem.

Where can I get healthcare work experience?

There are three broad options open to you:

Placements or volunteering at a charity

The British Red Cross offers one-week placements in the summer for 15 to 18-year-olds, taking place at its headquarters in London. For July and August 2019, you can apply between 1 April and 4 June 2019. It also have volunteering and internship opportunities.

You can also search online for other healthcare and medical charities, to see if they offer work experience placements. You could also explore volunteering as a way to gain work experience – start with St John Ambulance.

Work experience at residential care home or day care centre

Search online for available placements or volunteering opportunities with day care, care homes or nursing homes.

NHS work experience

The UK’s National Health Service offers the most healthcare work placements, so the rest of this article will fill you in on those.

What work experience does the NHS offer?

There are over 350 different careers in the NHS. The NHS is made up of over 300 organisations across England. Your local ‘NHS trust’ (that’s the organisation that oversees the hospitals and clinics in a particular area) is responsible for providing work experience.

The kind of work, the department, the length of placement and the age requirements will depend on where (ie which trust) your NHS work placement is.

So your starting point should be to search for your local trust and see what work experience options they have available. For example, the Oxford University Hospitals Trust provides three-day placements in physiotherapy, occupational therapy, or life sciences.

The University Hospitals of Leicester trust offers five-day placements for students who are applying for university and require work experience in hospitals related to that degree, eg medicine, nursing, physiotherapy, radiography etc.

 If possible, you should try to gain experience in the area that interests you.

Here are a few tasks that you might be doing on NHS work experience placements:

  • survey patients in a ward to find out what leads to a positive experience (16+)
  • update communication materials such as the pages of the website, leaflets or noticeboards
  • reverse mentoring: get a student to help senior colleagues get to grips with social media
  • analysing calls to see which issues generate complaints.
  • helping to make the beds
  • distribute leaflets or information to new patients
  • helping patient orientation in the hospital ward
  • shadowing a nurse or healthcare assistant as they take and record a patient’s blood pressure, temperature and heart rate and completing fluid charts under direct supervision (16+)
  • observing routine procedures or investigations or minor surgical procedures (16+)
  • assisting with meals (preparing over-tables, cutting food, encouraging the patient to eat and drink) and patient feeding (16+)
  • delivering and collecting items from other departments (16+)
  • talking to the patients (16+)
  • attending team meetings (16+).

How can I make the most of NHS work experience?

Before your hospital work experience begins, think about what you want to learn and the questions you might want to ask. Find out if there is a dress code and make sure to turn up on time.

Learn more: How to get the most out of work experience

You’ll need to act maturely and responsibly, showing respect for patients and staff. If you feel uncomfortable in any way, speak up and ask questions about anything you feel unsure of. You should follow health and safety procedures (which will be explained to you) and offer to help out. Ask the staff questions about their job roles (when they have time to chat).

Take some notes during your placement. When it comes to job applications and interviews, you’ll need to reference:

  • Which job role you did and the tasks you carried out.
  • What you learned from the experience.
  • The skills you developed.
  • How the placement affected your decision to pursue a particular career.

Record your placement: sign up to Success at School to access your free Work Experience Log

Keep track of the skills and experience you gained during
your placement 

How can I find a work experience placement in the NHS?

As we mentioned, you need to search for your local NHS trust and see what placements they have. Usually the website will have instructions on how to apply. You can also contact the human resources or training departments of the trust. Make contact during the academic year before you want the placement to begin.

You do not need a DBS (criminal record check) in order to apply for an NHS work experience placement.

There’s usually a high demand for NHS placements, so be patient and realistic. You’ll usually need good grades.

Read next: What skills do I need for a career in health? 

Main image and diary via Freepik, doctor via Flickr.