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.
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’.
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.
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.
Healthwatch works with NHS England to find out the views of the public. When volunteering with Healthwatch your roles can include:
This is only a selection of roles that are on offer and roles can vary based on where you are.
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:
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.
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:
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:
As an NHS volunteer responder, you’ll be playing your part in supporting the NHS during the pandemic.
Your NHS role could include:
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):
You’ll be asked questions about your personal details, availability and details of your referees.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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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