NHS Work Experience

Last updated: 7/07/2021

Being the largest employer in Europe, with over 1.3 million employees, the NHS has many opportunities for work experience in the healthcare sector.

For medical and dental admissions candidates looking to get work experience, it doesn't matter what you do, what matters is that you learn from the experience and get some general insight into the career.

Can I volunteer for the NHS?

Most people over the age of 18 can undertake any of the volunteering roles available in the NHS. There is no upper age limit for volunteering, provided that you have the capacity to carry out the role safely. 

Volunteering opportunities can be limited for under 18s with many organisations reluctant to take them on. If you fall into this group, read on to discover your options.

Learn more about work experience for medical or dental school

Read ‘How to get into medical school’.

Volunteering for EU and international applicants

If you’re from the EU, you can volunteer in the UK without restrictions. If you’re not from the EU, then you can volunteer if you’re on a work or study visa, provided you carry on with the main activity mentioned in your visa application. You can volunteer in the UK with a volunteer visa, but this will require arrangements to be made in advance and there are some restrictions. You can’t volunteer on a visitor/tourist visa. 

NHS logo

What types of NHS voluntary work are available? 

There are over 300 NHS volunteer roles. Different roles will require vastly different skillsets. You can volunteer at your local hospital, but most hospitals and GP practices will signpost you to charities in your community that volunteer for the NHS. 

Organisations that provide volunteering roles within the NHS and the roles they provide

Healthwatch 

Healthwatch works with NHS England to find out the views of the public. When volunteering with Healthwatch your roles can include:

  • Telephone buddy
  • Community listener
  • Data entry & admin volunteer
  • Engagement volunteer

This is only a selection of roles that are on offer and roles can vary based on where you are. 

Find your local Healthwatch centre.

Local NHS trust 

Contacting your local NHS trust will allow you to find the opportunities most relevant to your local community. There’s a range of roles, including:

  • Fundraising 
  • Patient support groups 
  • Administrative support
  • Hospital radio services
  • Meeting and greeting patients and visitors
  • Befriending

National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)

This site signposts you to various charity organisations that work with the NHS and the community. Your roles can include any of the ones mentioned above depending on which organisation you work with.

NHS Cadets

This an ideal opportunity for those between the ages of 14 and 18. You will be working with St John Ambulance service and you’ll be able to:

  • Receive first aid training
  • Help in the NHS
  • Get hands on work experience in NHS hospitals

St John Ambulance 

There’s a wealth of opportunities with St John Ambulance. You’ll be able to be involved from the very start of the patient's journey. 

The roles available include:

  • Ambulance service volunteers
  • Community first responders
  • Fundraising volunteers
  • Managerial roles
  • Skilled support 
  • Student volunteering
  • Youth team volunteer
  • Community advocate
  • Event first aider
  • Stadium first aider

NHS Volunteer Responders 

As an NHS volunteer responder, you’ll be playing your part in supporting the NHS during the pandemic.

Your NHS role could include:

  • Helping get groceries
  • Helping drive patients to hospital appointments
  • Transporting NHS supplies between sites 
  • Checking in and chatting
NHS volunteer

How to volunteer for the NHS

You need to first choose where you want to volunteer and in what role. It’s likely that you’ll have to fill in an application form and you’ll definitely need a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. 

If you want to volunteer directly with the NHS this is the most likely process (after you’ve contacted them):

  1. You’ll either be sent an application pack or asked to complete a form online.

You’ll be asked questions about your personal details, availability and details of your referees.

  1. You’ll have a short informal interview 

The purpose of this will be to discuss your skills and motivation for wanting to volunteer. It’s an opportunity for you to fully understand what the role entails.

  1. Necessary checks are made

If your interview goes well, you’ll then need to send off your DBS application and your referees will be contacted. If necessary you may also need to complete an occupational health questionnaire. The purpose of the questionnaire is to identify anything in your role that could pose a risk to your own health and to see how best to support you in fulfilling your role if you have any health conditions.

  1. You’ll be informed that your application was successful once everything has been cleared.

NHS volunteer campaign

If you’re over 18 you could become a steward volunteer. As a steward volunteer, you’ll be guiding people around COVID-19 vaccine centres. Your role will involve making sure the flow of people through the centre is efficient and smooth and ensuring that social distancing is followed. 

You’ll need to be able to commit at least 2 shifts of 6 hours a month. You don’t need a DBS check, but you will need to declare any unspent convictions. 

Register to be a volunteer

NHS volunteer as work experience

Why volunteering for the NHS is a good idea

When you apply it’s likely you’ll be asked 'why do you want to volunteer for the NHS?'. You can find a list of reasons why you should volunteer with the NHS:

  • You’ll make a difference in your community
  • You’ll make a difference to the people you work with
  • You can develop social and personal skills
  • You’ll gain confidence
  • You’ll be a part of a team 
  • You’ll gain experience of working in a hospital or in other health care setting

How to discuss work experience at interview

If you're doing work experience before your medicine or dentistry degree, you should mention it in your personal statement and at interview. How you do this is critical, however.

Statements like "I know the reality of X, Y or Z specialty now" or other exaggerations will not impress the admissions team.

Learn more about what to say in your UCAS personal statement and at medical and dental school interviews.

How can Medify help?

Medify offers a free work experience tool. You can enter your postcode and see what work experience opportunities are around you. You can find contact details of who to contact for each placement and details of what the placement entails.

Medify's Work Experience Finder
Medify's Work Experience Finder

Summary

Volunteering for the NHS is a great opportunity, but it’s one you must go into with open eyes. The role can require a lot of sacrifice and tenacity and they vary so much that you need to reflect on whether each one suits you. Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses before applying, as well as what you want to get out of the experience.

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