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Getting NHS work experience

Getting NHS work experienceWork experience isn’t just a great way to find out what working for the NHS is really like – it’s a great way to get some solid skills to put on your CV and boost your job application as well. Get some inside tips from NHS Learning Support Officer Alison Langley on getting in, and what to expect when you’re there.

Where can I do work experience?

Many NHS departments across the country run work experience placements for students in hospitals, clinics, offices and the wider community. Some of the areas you could work in include:

  • Healthcare
  • Housekeeping and cleaning
  • Chefs and kitchen
  • Gardens, buildings and maintenance
  • Management
  • Computing and IT
  • Human resources and training
  • Accounts and finance
  • Nursing and midwifery
  • Medicine, pharmacology and dentistry

What will I do on work experience?

This depends on the type of work experience placement you do. If you are working in healthcare you might  follow a doctor or physiotherapist around the wards when they treat patients, or see how the payroll system works in the office if you’re working in accounts and finance. You will be supervised by a member of staff at all times, but you won’t just be watching what they do, as they will also give you some tasks to perform yourself.

To make the most out of your work experience placement, it’s important to listen to what staff tell you and be enthusiastic, organised and presentable at all times. You can find more advice about this in our article Easy ways to impress on your first day at work, and take Alison’s advice:

  • On the first day you will probably be met by the person organising your placement for an induction which will probably include information on your placement areas, health and safety, confidentiality, what to do if you can’t attend due to illness, meal and break times, and how to contact the work experience coordinator if you have any queries. This is a good time to ask any questions you may have before you start.
  • You may be given a tour of the hospital, and also an identity badge to wear on placement.
  • Depending on your career interests, you will be placed in various areas of the hospital. This may include In and outpatient departments if your interest is nursing, midwifery or medicine, or other areas such as catering, administration, IT, finance, pathology, pharmacy to name just a few. Make your career aspirations as clear as possible on you application and CV to help the coordinator plan an interesting placement to suit you.
  • You will have a mentor to look after you in each placement area so you won’t be on your own. Ask your mentor and the staff you work with lots of questions about their role, and what qualifications or training they needed to do to get their job. By showing enthusiasm, you will learn more, get the most out of your placement, and enjoy an even more positive response from the staff looking after you.
  • Don’t expect to be able to roll up your sleeves and do the same job as your mentor or the staff you are working with. It takes years for staff to learn the skills required to do their job, and your placement will be an insight into this.
  • Make the most of your placement by talking to patients and staff- they are a wealth of knowledge, and it is a great opportunity to practise your communication skills!
  • If you have a quiet moment it may be a good idea to keep a brief diary of your placement, and jot down where you have worked and what you have seen each day. This will be useful evidence for the future to use in CVs, applications, personal statements and at interview.
  • At the end of your placement ask your mentor to complete any evaluation forms you have been given from school or college. Good evaluations can be used as evidence to support your application into college, university, medical school or at job interviews.

Employability skills

Most jobs in the NHS will require you to have done at least some work experience before you apply, so it’s essential to try and get some. Plus, as well as picking up skills for a specific job, you’ll also learn the importance of employability skills like time management, reliability, teamwork and problem solving; which are all needed in any career, not just in the NHS.

According to Alison, work experience also helps you:

  • Gain confidence and experience of working with a wide range of patients, visitors and staff.
  • Enhance you communication skills.
  • Have a taste of the skills required for some of the 350 plus careers available within the NHS.
  • Confirm which career pathway to pursue.
  • Gain evidence for colleges, universities and employers of attendance on placement.
  • Display commitment and concern for others by taking part in work experience in a care setting.
  • Gain interesting experiences to draw upon and use in CVs, applications and at interviews to make you stand out from the crowd.
  • Have an opportunity to chat to staff about what it is really like to work for the NHS and be trained in a particular role.

How do I get work experience?

Your school or college might run work experience placements with local NHS hospitals or clinics. These might be blocks of two weeks in one go, or one or two days a week over a longer period of time. Ask your teachers or careers advisers to see if there’s anything like this going on at your school.

If your school or college doesn’t run an NHS work experience scheme, you can always apply for work experience yourself. The best way to do this is by thinking about where you want to work – your local clinic or hospital for example – telephoning reception and asking if they have any information about work experience there. They will usually put you through to someone who can help and tell you how to apply, which might mean sending in a CV and covering letter or filling in an application form

Alison’s advice on how to apply:

  • Your school or college may arrange a placement for you, or ask you to place yourself. If you do need to place yourself, speak to your teacher, careers advisor or tutor who may have a link with a named work experience coordinator you can contact.
  • If not, don’t worry, you can always telephone your local hospital switchboard and ask to speak to the person responsible for arranging work experience. This may be the human resource department, learning and development department or a work experience co-ordinator. If a member of your family or a neighbour works in a hospital it may also be useful to ask them if they can arrange a placement for you or ask if they know who to contact.
  • If you’re local hospital does not provide work experience or is already fully booked don’t panic. Ask about voluntary work, any career days the hospital might organise that you could attend or if they are a Foundation Trust Hospital and have a Youth Council that you could become involved with.
  • You could also explore opportunities outside of a hospital in your local area such as nursing homes, GP surgeries, physiotherapy practices, Red Cross or St. John’s Ambulance.
  • Once you decide where to apply for work experience, you will probably have to complete some paperwork. You may be asked to submit a CV or to complete an application form. Try to make sure that your spelling is correct, your writing is easy to read and that you add as much detail as possible so it stands out. If you’re filling out an application, ring up and enquire if you are not sure about anything, as placements can be in high demand, and if there are several applications for the same dates, an incorrect form could harm your chances.
  • It is good to include what sort of career you would like and why, why you think you might be good at that type of career, and what your interests, hobbies and school or college subjects are. Add any extracurricular activities you take part in especially if these involve helping others.
  • You may be more likely to secure a placement if you can be flexible and offer as many dates that you could attend as possible.
  • You may be asked to complete a health questionnaire as part of your application so that the hospital can see if it is safe for you to attend, and if there are any areas you should avoid. Ask your parent or guardian to help you complete this to avoid missing anything important related to your health.
  • Once you have a date for your placement, ring up a week or two before to confirm that you can still attend and to discuss any meeting arrangements.

Related links

Work experience isn’t just a great way to find out what working for the NHS is really like – it’s a great way to get some solid skills to put on your CV and boost your job application as well. Get some inside tips from NHS Learning Support Officer Alison Langley on getting in, and what to expect when you’re there.
Where can I do work experience?Many NHS departments across the country run work experience placements for students in hospitals, clinics, offices and the wider community. Some of the areas you could work in include:
HealthcareHousekeeping and cleaningChefs and kitchenGardens, buildings and maintenanceManagementComputing and ITHuman resources and trainingAccounts and financeNursing and midwiferyMedicine, pharmacology and dentistryWhat will I do on work experience?This depends on the type of work experience placement you do. If you are working in healthcare you might  follow a doctor or physiotherapist around the wards when they treat patients, or see how the payroll system works in the office if you’re working in accounts and finance. You will be supervised by a member of staff at all times, but you won’t just be watching what they do, as they will also give you some tasks to perform yourself.
To make the most out of your work experience placement, it’s important to listen to what staff tell you and be enthusiastic, organised and presentable at all times. You can find more advice about this in our article Easy ways to impress on your first day at work, and take Alison’s advice:
On the first day you will probably be met by the person organising your placement for an induction which will probably include information on your placement areas, health and safety, confidentiality, what to do if you can’t attend due to illness, meal and break times, and how to contact the work experience coordinator if you have any queries. This is a good time to ask any questions you may have before you start.You may be given a tour of the hospital, and also an identity badge to wear on placement.Depending on your career interests, you will be placed in various areas of the hospital. This may include In and outpatient departments if your interest is nursing, midwifery or medicine, or other areas such as catering, administration, IT, finance, pathology, pharmacy to name just a few. Make your career aspirations as clear as possible on you application and CV to help the coordinator plan an interesting placement to suit you.You will have a mentor to look after you in each placement area so you won’t be on your own. Ask your mentor and the staff you work with lots of questions about their role, and what qualifications or training they needed to do to get their job. By showing enthusiasm, you will learn more, get the most out of your placement, and enjoy an even more positive response from the staff looking after you.Don’t expect to be able to roll up your sleeves and do the same job as your mentor or the staff you are working with. It takes years for staff to learn the skills required to do their job, and your placement will be an insight into this.Make the most of your placement by talking to patients and staff- they are a wealth of knowledge, and it is a great opportunity to practise your communication skills!If you have a quiet moment it may be a good idea to keep a brief diary of your placement, and jot down where you have worked and what you have seen each day. This will be useful evidence for the future to use in CVs, applications, personal statements and at interview.At the end of your placement ask your mentor to complete any evaluation forms you have been given from school or college. Good evaluations can be used as evidence to support your application into college, university, medical school or at job interviews.Employability skillsMost jobs in the NHS will require you to have done at least some work experience before you apply, so it’s essential to try and get some. Plus, as well as picking up skills for a specific job, you’ll also learn the importance of employability skills like time management, reliability, teamwork and problem solving; which are all needed in any career, not just in the NHS.
According to Alison, work experience also helps you:
Gain confidence and experience of working with a wide range of patients, visitors and staff.Enhance you communication skills.Have a taste of the skills required for some of the 350 plus careers available within the NHS.Confirm which career pathway to pursue.Gain evidence for colleges, universities and employers of attendance on placement.Display commitment and concern for others by taking part in work experience in a care setting.Gain interesting experiences to draw upon and use in CVs, applications and at interviews to make you stand out from the crowd.Have an opportunity to chat to staff about what it is really like to work for the NHS and be trained in a particular role.How do I get work experience?Your school or college might run work experience placements with local NHS hospitals or clinics. These might be blocks of two weeks in one go, or one or two days a week over a longer period of time. Ask your teachers or careers advisers to see if there’s anything like this going on at your school.
If your school or college doesn’t run an NHS work experience scheme, you can always apply for work experience yourself. The best way to do this is by thinking about where you want to work – your local clinic or hospital for example – telephoning reception and asking if they have any information about work experience there. They will usually put you through to someone who can help and tell you how to apply, which might mean sending in a CV and covering letter or filling in an application form. 
Alison’s advice on how to apply:
Your school or college may arrange a placement for you, or ask you to place yourself. If you do need to place yourself, speak to your teacher, careers advisor or tutor who may have a link with a named work experience coordinator you can contact.If not, don’t worry, you can always telephone your local hospital switchboard and ask to speak to the person responsible for arranging work experience. This may be the human resource department, learning and development department or a work experience co-ordinator. If a member of your family or a neighbour works in a hospital it may also be useful to ask them if they can arrange a placement for you or ask if they know who to contact.If you’re local hospital does not provide work experience or is already fully booked don’t panic. Ask about voluntary work, any career days the hospital might organise that you could attend or if they are a Foundation Trust Hospital and have a Youth Council that you could become involved with.You could also explore opportunities outside of a hospital in your local area such as nursing homes, GP surgeries, physiotherapy practices, Red Cross or St. John’s Ambulance.Once you decide where to apply for work experience, you will probably have to complete some paperwork. You may be asked to submit a CV or to complete an application form. Try to make sure that your spelling is correct, your writing is easy to read and that you add as much detail as possible so it stands out. If you’re filling out an application, ring up and enquire if you are not sure about anything, as placements can be in high demand, and if there are several applications for the same dates, an incorrect form could harm your chances.It is good to include what sort of career you would like and why, why you think you might be good at that type of career, and what your interests, hobbies and school or college subjects are. Add any extracurricular activities you take part in especially if these involve helping others.You may be more likely to secure a placement if you can be flexible and offer as many dates that you could attend as possible.You may be asked to complete a health questionnaire as part of your application so that the hospital can see if it is safe for you to attend, and if there are any areas you should avoid. Ask your parent or guardian to help you complete this to avoid missing anything important related to your health.Once you have a date for your placement, ring up a week or two before to confirm that you can still attend and to discuss any meeting arrangements.Related linksWhy work experience worksWhat are my skills?Going extra curricularJob interview tips and tricksWhy is medical work experience so important?How to get medical work experienceWant to volunteer?Find out more about getting work experience in the NHS