Work experience is essential for successful medical applications. Discover where to apply for work experience opportunities, what these may entail, and essential tips for making the most of your placements!

Why Do I Need Medical Work Experience At 17?

Medical work experience is both invaluable and essential for 17-year-olds looking to apply to medical school.

Not only does it offer unique opportunities to explore your interests in healthcare, gaining first-hand exposure to the medical field, but also enhances the competitiveness of your medical applications, laying a solid groundwork for potential medical interviews.

Through your work experience placements, you will witness the day-to-day realities of healthcare, including patient care, teamwork, and the challenges faced by healthcare professionals.

There is no better way to understand the benefits and drawbacks of working in healthcare than experiencing it first-hand!

Moreover, through engaging in medical work experience, you will begin to develop essential skills such as communication, empathy, and professionalism, all of which are crucial in any healthcare setting and will help you to bolster your medical applications.

Explore more reasons why medical work experience is so important and our top tips for your work experience placements.

Work Experience Options For 17-year-olds

There is a wide array of medical work experience opportunities available to 17-year-olds, with each offering distinctive advantages.

Regardless of the nature of the role, be it volunteer-based or clinically-oriented, you will gain invaluable insights into various medical careers, and perhaps be able to explore an area of healthcare that you are particularly interested in!

Undertaking varied work experience placements shows that you have put effort into understanding what a career in healthcare entails, placing you in a better position for successful medical applications. These work experience placements can take the form of clinical or voluntary-based placements.

Clinical placements

Undertaking clinical placements is an essential component of medical school applications, where varied experiences are valued over weeks spent working in just one department. Clinical placements can be hard to secure, particularly following the COVID-19 pandemic. Read on to discover our top tips for securing clinically-based placements. 

        1. Make use of your contacts!

There is a lot to be said for contacts within medicine. Send a message to family, friends, neighbours, or anyone you know who is working within the healthcare field asking if they can help you to secure a work experience placement. You would be surprised how happy most people are to help. Remember, they were once in your shoes too!

       2. Directly contact your local GP services

Many hospitals offer formal clinical work experience placements. Get in contact with your local healthcare services to make sure you don’t miss out on these opportunities. Even if they don’t have any placements available, they may be able to steer you in the right direction for where to find these placements. 

      3. Explore online platforms 

A lot can be said for making use of online resources as well. There are some great online resources that will give you a taste of what working in the healthcare field entails. 

  • RCGP (the Royal College of General Practitioners) offers a unique virtual insight into the role of a GP and the wider primary care team. 
  • The GMC and NHS England have collaborated to develop a free online platform providing insights into a patient’s journey through the healthcare system. 

Voluntary placements

Many students look to secure only clinical placements, overlooking the importance and value of voluntary-based placements. Medical volunteering opportunities are endless, ranging from volunteering within local schools and care homes, to working as part of St John Ambulance. Make sure you read our helpful guide for where to find medical volunteering opportunities and how to make the most of them!

What Clinical Activities Can I Take Part in as a 17-year-old?

As compared to work experience at younger ages, at 17-year-old you will engage in a wide range of clinical activities under proper supervision and guidance. This will really help you to get a feel for the medical profession and perhaps begin to explore areas of medicine that interest you the most. 

Tasks and activities you may be involved in during your clinical work experience placements include: 

  • Analysis of existing data, including data collected from surveys 
  • Reverse mentoring where you may be required to help senior colleagues get to grips with newer technology including social media
  • Analysing calls to see which issues generate complaints
  • Distributing ward leaflets or information to new patients
  • Helping to make patients’ beds on the ward and general tidying of the bed area
  • Shadowing a nurse or healthcare assistant as they both take and record some simple measurements from patients including their blood pressure and heart rate
  • Assisting with meals and patient feeding. This could include preparing the meals or encouraging patients to eat and drink
  • Observing routine procedures or investigations, including minor surgical procedures
  • Delivering and collecting items from other departments
  • Attending team meetings

Any tasks involving direct patient contact will also require consent from the patient. A doctor or healthcare professional will be supervising you at all times during your placement, however, so don’t worry too much about this as they will help you to obtain verbal consent from patients beforehand.

Additionally, as you will be supervised at all times no DBS will be required for your work experience placements within the NHS. 

Can 17-year-olds Receive Payment For Their Work?

Work experience in the NHS will not include payment for the students. Similarly, if you decide to pursue a volunteering role you will not be paid for your time.

If you are interested in getting a paid role in the caring or service industry, you will need to look for local job openings in areas such as care homes, hospices and schools.

Although you can get a paid job as young workers aged 16 to 17 are entitled to at least £5.28 per hour, it will depend on the type of an agreement you enter.

It is important to remember that paid roles are much less flexible in terms of scheduling and can be a big commitment alongside your school work.

Additional Rules and Guidelines For Your Work Experience

You might feel concerned about performing tasks that feel out of your remit. This should not be an issue as there are rules around this and activities that young people are legally prohibited from doing. These include things such as: 

  • Anything that is beyond students’ physical or psychological capacity
  • Tasks that involve harmful exposure to substances that are toxic, can cause cancer, can damage or harm an unborn child, or can chronically affect human health in any other way
  • Tasks that involve harmful exposure to radiation

Additionally, there are guidelines in place to ensure that you won’t be overworked on your work experience placements either. These indicate that young people on work experience placements should not: 

  • Work 8+ hours per day, with a maximum of 37.5 hours per week
  • Start work before 7:00 am or finish work after 7:00 pm
  • Work more than five days per week or work overtime

If you feel you are being overworked it is important to communicate this to your employer or healthcare supervisor within your work experience placement. Remember, all young people are entitled to a break of at least half an hour if your daily working time is more than 4.5 hours.

Review our additional guides:

  1. Medical Work Experience For 14-year-olds
  2. Medical Work Experience For 15-year-olds
  3. Medical Work Experience For 16-year-olds


Is One Work Experience Placement Enough for a Successful Medical Application?

While having one work experience placement can certainly contribute positively to a medical school application, it may not be sufficient on its own. Generally, try to undertake a wide range of shorter work experience placements so that you can demonstrate a wide variety of experience, commitment and genuine interest in the healthcare environment in your medical applications. 

Should I Record Notes From my Work Experience Placements?

It is extremely important to record your experiences as you carry out your work experience placements. Not only will this be useful for any medical interviews you may secure, but reflection is also an essential skill within healthcare so getting to grips with how to reflect at such an early stage is invaluable! Be sure to keep your notes anonymised, however, with patients’ names replaced with single letters, for example. 

Should I Prioritise Clinical Placements Over Volunteering Placements?

No. Both clinical and volunteering-based placements have their own unique benefits. You should try to get as much varied experience as possible by undertaking both clinical and voluntary placements.


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