Getting experience

Get some work experience ideas, how to find them and how to make the most of them.

Getting experience can put you on the road to an NHS career. Many NHS jobs and training courses, such as university degrees and apprenticeships, need some level of experience. While for others, you'll need to demonstrate that you've looked into the role you're interested in and have some understanding of what it involves.

Ways of getting experience

Getting some experience can be really important in finding an NHS career. Here are some of the different things you can do.

  • work experience placements. The placement could be a day or two, a week or fortnight or a few hours each week. It is worth remembering that during and since the COVID-19 pandemic, you might find it more difficult to find them.
  • volunteering. Volunteers work alongside staff doing worthwhile tasks. Although you’re not paid, any expenses may be reimbursed. You don’t have to volunteer full time. It could be a one-off project or a weekly commitment that you could fit around your work or studies. It could form part of your gap year either in the UK or overseas.
  • paid part- or full-time work. Any paid experience in the right sort of environment can be valuable, particularly if you receive training. 
  • a supported internship. Supported internships (such as with Project Choice) provide a mix of work placements and study days at college, usually for people aged between 16 and 24
  • other ways in which you can gain relevant experience include caring for a friend or relative who is sick or disabled

The greater and more varied the experience you have the better, so you could, for instance, do a placement as well as some volunteering.

Alex Townsend

I started looking at degrees when I was about 16 and knew I wanted to do something in healthcare so I set about doing work experience in various different settings including physiotherapy, dentistry and orthopaedics.

Relevant experience

Ideally you should try to gain experience in the area of health that interests you. However, any experience can be useful because just being in a health environment can give you an insight into the work. If you're considering a university course, make sure you find out what sort of experience they're looking for. Contact them or visit their website. It's best not to assume!

Thousands of organisations provide healthcare in one way or another. You could consider gaining experience at:

  • an NHS or private hospital, clinic or health centre
  • a charity or social enterprise (such as one that supports people with long-term health conditions, disabilities or older people, or that provide first aid, eg St John Ambulance or the Red Cross)
  • a residential care home or day care centre

Your role could be to support patients or clients directly, or staff in general, or it may be behind the scenes.

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