Types of Medical Work Experience

February 8, 2012

Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.

See current opportunities

On placement in Africa Work experience is essential for anybody serious about a career in medicine. Few medical schools will accept applicants that haven’t gained some experience in a medical setting, Work placements also provide future medical school students with real experiences that can help them decide is medicine is really a career for them. But finding the right type of work experience, which is both relevant to a medical students’ future career, and that will provide valuable work and life experience is difficult. Working experience comes in many forms, some provide hands-on experience where you will pick up valuable skills, while other placements only offer the ability to shadow practitioners, which gains valuable knowledge but less practical experience. 

Hospital volunteering is a common form of work experience undertaken by students wanting a career in medicine. Volunteers are essential for nearly all hospitals and provide valuable functions that help both staff and patients. From keeping patients company to supporting staff, volunteering in a hospital provides varied work opportunities and the ability to learn how hospitals run and operate. Other healthcare settings rely on volunteers too. Hospices for instance are always in need of people to help them provide respite and palliative care. From helping with meal-times to accompanying patients on day trips. Hospice volunteering can be really rewarding, although the work can be emotionally demanding and provides an insight into whether or not a medical student can cope with some of the difficult situations doctors have to experience. Other locations where volunteers are always needed include nursing homes, community centres, which work with the disabled or children, and counselling and support services. 

Another option for work experience is shadowing doctors or other medical professionals. While this doesn’t provide any actual “work” shadowing gives a student the chance to observe what a doctor or health professional actually does and offers a powerful insight into his or her day-to-day work and activities. By shadowing a single doctor or other health professional, you also gain a more personal insight and can enable you to ask questions about the career path and choices taken by the doctor or health professional. Paid employment in a healthcare setting can also provide relevant experience. Working as a support worker, porter or orderly enables you to learn how a busy health setting functions, whilst also providing you with an income. Many gap year students choose this route as it helps to pay for the year out whilst also offering valuable experience.

Volunteering overseas is another method of getting valuable experience. Overseas volunteer programmes offer the chance to learn about other cultures, people and provide a memorable experience that is both rewarding and enjoyable. Volunteering in an overseas location provides varied and rewarding experiences valuable to a medical school application. Overseas volunteering also offers the personal satisfaction of improving the lives of people in countries less fortunate than our own.