Updated: Jan 20
Medical schools understand how much the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their prospective, current and recently graduated students. Therefore, they will not be placing a huge emphasis on work experience and will be aware that many placements would have been cancelled or rescheduled. However, they will still expect you to be well-informed about the degree and what it takes to be a doctor.
Social media platforms have been an amazing way to learn more about medical students’ and doctors’ lives. There has also been an explosion of virtual events, webinars, work experiences and videos that you can take notes from.
But what actually counts as 'virtual' work experience?
Work experience for Medicine is anything that helps you to learn about healthcare practitioners and their role in the work environment. It should also allow you to demonstrate the skills you will need to be a future doctor such as communication, teamwork, empathy and resilience. Medical schools place emphasis on having work experience because reflecting on this experience is necessary to make an informed decision about whether the career is right for you or not.
Observing health care professionals and communicating with people via the volunteering opportunities listed below can count towards work experience.
However, please be aware that informal webinars or Q&A sessions with medical students and doctors about their life in the field or news articles/documentaries would not count as work experience to write about in your personal statement/mention at interview.
I have listed some work experience ideas below that you can talk about in your interview and personal statement:
Virtual Medical Work Experience
COVID-19 vaccinator - There are many ways to get involved in the national vaccination programme depending on your level of experience. See the official NHS link for more details or google to apply for jobs. This would be a fantastic frontline experience and give you a key clinical skill.
BSMS Virtual work Experience – This is a fantastic virtual course put together by Brighton and Sussex medical school to help you develop an understanding of the NHS and the roles of different specialty doctors, including GPs, consultants and junior doctors. Upon completion of the course, you are awarded a certificate of completion, a transcript of your reflective work and something interesting to talk about in your personal statement and/or medical school interviews!
The NHS Explained: How the Health System in England Really Works – this is an online course by the King’s Fund and covers the structure, function, performance and future of the NHS.
Education Projects webinars – Webinars on a range of topics such as 'Being an A&E Doctor during COVID-19' and learning about heart attacks or asthma. These can be watched on demand.
Observe GP - An alternative virtual work experience for aspiring medics aged 16 and over, who are living in the UK. It is a free interactive video platform providing insights into the role of a GP and the wider primary care team. Have a look at this student's review on what it was like!
AspireMEd Medicine Applicants Virtual Conference 2020 - A free conference for medical applicants involving talks, workshops and incredible organisations that can help you with your application
Becoming a Dr National Virtual Healthcare Careers Conference - Supported by the NHS and the GMC, this reputable conference is open to aspiring and current medical students as well as teachers and careers advisors.
SpringPod - Join SpringPod to search lots of work experience and internship opportunities that you can do. They are doing a virtual work experience programme for medical applicants that involves 10 hours of activity which can be completed over a 2 week period. The dates are not yet confirmed but bookmark the page to keep up to date! We Are Medics are a fantastic Instagram page that signposted this opportunity. Keep up to date for more of their helpful content.
Life Lab Virtual Medics Summer School - A free 2-day programme where you can find out what's involved in training to become a doctor through a combination of live sessions and webinars, live Q&A with doctors, medical students and admissions experts. Suitable for students aged 14-17.
Doctor for a Day (£15) - Experience what it is like to be a doctor through online clinical practice, manage simulated emergencies and learn about the job in way that you can reflect about it in your personal statement!
Re-engage – you can become a call companion or coordinator for lonely and isolated elderly people.
Re-Action - Upon signing up, you will be grouped with 10-15 people to inspire collective enthusiasm during the pandemic. Makesense.org will provide the tools needed to assess your community’s needs and propose concrete ideas to help the people that are the most vulnerable i.e. the homeless, seniors and caregivers in your area.
Shout - A crises-resolution online platform that allows you to have an impact on people’s lives and make a difference. This is approximately 2-4 hrs a week with mandatory training. You must be over 18.
The Mix - you can take part in online and offline volunteering to help young people aged 25 and under get to grips with any challenge they face – from mental health to money, from homelessness to finding a job, from break-ups to drugs. Anywhere at any time; online, over the phone or via social media. The majority of volunteers are trained using e-learning courses from which they receive badges and in some cases OCN qualifications (equivalent to A* to C at GCSE level).
The Crisis Project – write letters and nominate key workers across the country for their amazing work to keep their morale high through the pandemic.
CHD Living Adopt a Grandparent - A care home that has started a new scheme to talk to elderly people from all over the world.
Royal Voluntary Service - You can sign up as an NHS Volunteer Responder. You can help carry out simple, non-medical tasks such as delivering shopping and medications to people who are self-isolating.
Be my Eyes App - The amazing Be My Eyes app connects sighted volunteers to blind or low-vision people to help them with their daily tasks. Through live video call or chat, you can guide those with poor sight through problems like checking expiry dates, distinguishing colours, reading instructions or navigating new surroundings.
Doit.org - you can search for volunteering opportunities happening in your local area and beyond.
The Silver Line – a national charity that provides advice, friendship and information to older people. You can sign up to be a volunteer as part of their Silver Line Friends scheme where you can call older people every week or exchange letters.
Age UK – Age UK is a charity that also works to provide vital support for elderly people. You can fundraise for them, become a digital buddy (to support older people with using technology) and be a neighbourhood volunteer by supporting with tasks like shopping during the pandemic.
The two charities Age UK and The Silver Line have joined to help even more lonely older people who rely on vital services during the pandemic.
What else can I do to get ready for medical school?
Virtual Open Days for Medicine – Life of a Medic is running an online open day series for each of the 33 UK medical schools. Find out from current medical students from all year groups about what it is like to study Medicine at their university. You then have the opportunity to ask them any questions you have.
Tutoring – tutoring students during this time via online platforms will give you teaching skills and help to positively influence your peers. Sign up to any companies hiring or you can start tutoring yourself.
National Virtual Health Careers Conference - A free virtual conference for aspiring and current healthcare professionals. Supported by key organisations such as Health Education England, NHS England and the General Medical Council.
Virtual Science Fair - Journey 2 Med put on a fantastic Virtual Science Fair (which I was a judge of) in early June and are putting on a second one. This is a great opportunity to present a scientific presentation and win a prize + a certificate of participation. Applications open on July 17th at 6pm. Keep up to date with their Instagram here
The Aspiring Medics have put together a webpage dedicated to all of these resources
Life of a Medic provides an amazing master list of online work experiences
Journey 2 Med Instagram page and YouTube promotes opportunities for medical students to gain experience such as their Virtual Science Fair
We Are Medics is a fantastic Instagram page run by medical students that has been sharing lots of useful resources and signposting work experience during the pandemic
Top tip: Search Eventbrite and type in 'medical work experience' or 'medical student experience'. A range of amazing events and webinars come up!