5 Ways to Gain Medical Work Experience

10 Feb, 2024 | Medicine, University Preparation

Relevant work experience is an essential part of a successful medical school application. Universities seek applicants with a strong interest in the subject, demonstrating a clear understanding of “why study medicine” and a commitment to pursuing a career in the field.

It’s important to remember that admissions teams are more interested in what you’ve learnt from your placements, rather than just what you did in them! Try to reflect on your experiences and how they support your application.

Here are our top five recommendations for ways to gain valuable medical work experience:

1. Shadowing

This is the type of work experience most commonly associated with Medicine applications. It involves contacting a medical professional and asking if you can observe them in their work for a set period of time. 

Ideally this professional should be working in a field or specialism that you’re particularly interested in. Shadowing can involve anything from sitting in on patient consultations, to watching surgery, to attending ward rounds.

As well as getting in touch with medical professionals you already know, many doctors and clinical staff are happy to offer shadowing or work experience opportunities to students who just reach out. When deciding who to ask, try to be mindful of the logistics involved – for example, a GP might be better positioned to help than a senior neurosurgeon due to existing time commitments or the nature of the work.

Additionally, Oxford Summer Courses often provide a unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience and access to tutors and mentors who have studied medicine. This can complement traditional shadowing experiences by offering insights into the medical profession and practical engagement under the guidance of experienced medical educators.

If you’re unsure of where to start, contacting the administrative office of a desired practice or clinic can lead to recommendations for doctors or staff willing to facilitate your shadowing experience.

2. Voluntary Work

Often, voluntary work is a lot more hands-on than shadowing. It may involve ancillary work – like cleaning or administration – at a hospital or clinic, or volunteering to spend social time with long-term patients and care home residents who have limited interactions with the outside world. 

Anything that offers you the opportunity to spend time in a medical environment, and to meet medical staff at different points in their careers, is very helpful!

3. Virtual Experience

No, we don’t mean playing Surgeon Simulator 2! 

Virtual medical experience is incredibly valuable, and can take a range of forms. Virtual experiences include:

  • Participating in an online medicine internship to work on a real project with an expert Mentor
  • Connecting with a medical professional to discuss their experience
  • Accessing online resources, like videos, peer-reviewed articles and e-books, to expand your medical knowledge

There are endless options available, so be sure to do your research!

4. Extracurricular Courses

Medicine summer schools and after-school classes can be incredibly informative, rewarding and fun! 

OxBright’s Medicine summer courses combine medical theory that goes beyond the school curriculum, with hands-on practical experience. All of our course content and activities are geared towards informing your decision to become a doctor and boosting your medical school application.

For those seeking an in-person experience in the UK, Oxford Scholastica Academy’s Oxford Summer School offers residential options to study abroad, providing an immersive educational environment.

5. Conferences / Events

By attending medical conferences and events, you’ll gain theoretical knowledge to help you grasp degree-level concepts. It’s also an effective way to demonstrate a keen interest in the subject. 

In addition, a conference can be a great place to meet other people interested in medicine, allowing you to start building your professional network!

Medical student attending an online conference to gain experience.

Our Top Tips for Gaining Medical Work Experience

Here are some final recommendations for making the most of your work experience:

  • Take notes at the end of each session. List what you’ve done, anything you’ve learnt, and how you felt about each aspect of the experience. These notes will be a really valuable resource when you come to write your personal statement and prepare for your interview.
  • It’s okay if you don’t enjoy something. Finding one aspect of the medical field tough, tedious or unpleasant, doesn’t mean you’re not cut out to be a doctor! Be honest with yourself, and try to find experience in another field.
  • It’s also okay to change your mind. If you try a range of different placements in different aspects of medicine, and you don’t like any of them, it’s okay to decide it isn’t the field for you. You can look into medical research, or other careers entirely.
  • Factor in rest! If you spend your whole summer holidays gaining work experience, you’ll be too tired to concentrate when you restart classes. Remember to take breaks, do things you enjoy, and look after yourself while on your quest for medical work experience.

Working as a doctor is a rewarding – but often tough! – career, so work experience is really important to make sure that medicine is the right path for you.

Work experience is also a great opportunity to explore your passion, and there is a huge range of options, so get searching!


By Diego Balassini

Diego is a final year medical student at Cambridge University. He graduated in Biomedical Sciences from Barts and The London School of Medicine, with a research thesis on cancer biology and therapeutics.

He is planning a career in reconstructive and plastic surgery, hoping to draw together innovations from tissue bioengineering, regenerative and stem cell research.

Ready to get a head start on your future?

Recommended articles

Which Career Is the Best Fit for Me?

Which Career Is the Best Fit for Me?

Choosing your career path is one of the first big steps you’ll take as a young adult, so it can often be a daunting prospect. However, the possibilities are endless, and as long as you base your choices on your personal preferences, passions and interests, your...

read more
How to Make a Study Schedule That Actually Works

How to Make a Study Schedule That Actually Works

Studying can sometimes feel like a daunting task, no matter how old you are or what level you’re studying at. You might be left thinking: How can I balance academics with my other commitments?  How do I stay consistent with a study schedule?  Is there a “good” or...

read more