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COVID-19 has interrupted opportunities to secure work experience in healthcare settings, but there are some clever ways around this!

What Do Universities Expect Now?

Work experience requirements have changed to accommodate the fact that COVID-19 has cancelled many placements. In fact, most Medical Schools won’t penalise you for not having healthcare-related work experience.

But that doesn’t mean you can give up and forget work experience altogether.

You have a great opportunity to be creative with your work experience! As long as you can reflect on what you’ve experienced and explain how it’s helped you understand your career choice or prepare for Medical School, you can make almost any experience relevant.

When thinking about other ways to get work experience, you should go for opportunities that can:

  • Give you people-focused experience
  • Provide insight into the realities of working in a caring profession
  • Help develop any skills and values needed to become a Doctor, for example, communication, the ability to interact with different people, and beyond
  • Give you a realistic understanding of the physical and emotional demands of a career in Medicine

See what every Med School in the UK requires for work experience in our guide.

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COVID-19 Work Experience Alternatives

There are actually many other ways for you to get a realistic understanding of Medicine and the Doctor role that do not involve hospital placements or shadowing a GP. Here are a few suggestions:

Alternative: Set Up a Call

Did you have work experience lined up before the pandemic? If so, try to message the placement and see if it would be possible to set up a short phone call or skype chat with a Doctor. This is a great way to find out more about working in healthcare.

Of course, this is a very busy time so it may not be possible to arrange a call with your original placements.

If that’s not possible, reach out to Medical students who can provide insight into what Medical School is like and what to expect. You may know people who are already at Medical School, but if not try to connect with Medical Students on platforms such as The Student Room or the UCAS website. There will be Doctors and students who are keen to offer advice and support.

Alternative: Volunteering

Some universities will accept you drawing upon your experience in non-healthcare settings, as long as you can illustrate how skillsets you used could be transferred to the role of a Doctor.

Some good examples of related volunteering opportunities include:

  • Delivering pharmacy prescriptions to the elderly/vulnerable
  • Volunteering in a care home/hospice
  • Helped organised local community project

We’ve launched a Volunteering & Reflection Programme that will give you:

  • Regular online volunteering experience, by zooming into care homes around the world. This is facilitated by award-winning charity Kissing it Better.
  • Access to 10 companion modules that will help you reflect on your volunteering experience and the impact you’re having
  • a year’s subscription to TMP MedSoc, so you can build a stronger application.

Find out more about the programme here.

Alternative: Virtual Work Experience

A great alternative to work experience is a virtual programme that will give you insight into what working in healthcare is like.

Some good virtual work experience alternatives include:

  • Brighton and Sussex Medical School Virtual Work Experience: This platform introduces you to the NHS, medical specialist roles as well as the challenges and wider issues Doctors face. You can find out more about BSMS Virtual Work experience here.
  • ObserveGP: The Royal College of General Practitioners have created this resource in order to allow aspiring medics to understand the different elements involved in working in primary care.
  • NHS Health Careers: This is a good page for you to gain a better understanding of the various careers and specialities that exist within the health sector.

Alternative: Research Programmes

Another COVID-19 work experience alternative could be to conduct your own independent research project – or join a research programme.

Some research programmes to consider:

  • Brightldeas 2021: This research programme allows aspiring medics to complete a Medicine-focused research project with the support of a Medical Student e-mentor. The project also involves great insight into the role of a Doctor as a scientist, clinician and teacher. It’s a joint initiative between Brighton and Sussex Medical School and Kent and Medway Medical School.
  • Independent research project:  If you are unable to find a research programme to join, don’t worry! Taking the initiative to conduct your own research project is also amazing – here is a list of possible research ideas for you to take inspiration from.

If You Don’t Have Work Experience

If you still can’t get any work experience placements, don’t panic. The Medical Schools Council suggest that aspiring medics keep a reflective diary about ongoing COVID-19 news, taking note of the perspective of those working during the pandemic.

Check our guide to work experience for more tips and advice on what you can do without work experience.

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