Hospices provide care for patients who are terminally ill. Many hospices rely heavily on volunteers to help with their work. This might involve helping with meal times, patient transport or day trips.
Health Care Assistant
There are also several paid jobs that you can do that don't require much prior training or experience. For example, you can work as a health care assistant (HCA), support worker, phlebotomist or hospital porter, all of which will give you excellent experience working with patients. Getting this type of job is particularly useful if you are taking a gap year (and you don't want to go abroad) or if you are going into medicine as a mature student. You can also work part time in many of these jobs. To get this type of work, look in the local paper, contact your local hospital, look for local nursing agencies or try the NHS jobs site.
Caring For Elderly
Caring for the elderly is also excellent experience for would-be doctors. This can often be challenging, as you may need to deal with patients with dementia, hearing loss and physical disability. The best way to search for this type of voluntary work is to look for your local nursing home or rest home and write to them, explaining why you would like to volunteer. Try the yellow pages website as a starting point
There are lots of opportunities to work with organisations providing telephone counselling and support. Examples include Childline, who help children in distress, The Samaritans who offer support to adults in crisis and Saneline, who offer advice and counselling to people affected by mental illness.
Working With Children
Working with children is another way to gain relevant experience for medical school. Learning how to communicate with kids is really useful, particularly if you are interested in being a GP or paediatrician. There are a number of ways to get involved; Barnados play schemes, Over the Wall and Camp activity all run activity weeks for kids with serious illness. Working or volunteering with children and vulnerable adults in the UK is likely to involve you undergoing some form of personal screening.
Also try The Red Cross and St John’s Ambulance as well as local charity shops or youth centres. If you can obtain work over a consistent period of time (e.g. one afternoon for 6 months), this looks better than a week done in the holidays. This demonstrates commitment, interest and effort. Any type of volunteering will be beneficial. Participatory work experience (i.e. hands on rather than just observing) is the most valuable.
Here is a selection of volunteering sites that may help you:
There are also courses that you can attend, some run by the hospitals themselves. E.g. Royal Berkshire NHS trust runs ‘Introduction to Medicine’ course, Imperial run ‘The Premed Course’ and The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital runs ‘So You Want to do Medicine?’ There are also external organisations (chargeable) that run similar events eg Medi-quest and mdexperience.co.uk. The Debate Chamber runs The Medicine Summer School, 3 days at London University. (cost is £250) covers subjects such as Neurology, cardiology, trauma, radiology, haematology, pulmonary and ethics.
Work Experience - Dental Students
With regard dentistry, you generally need at least 2 weeks work experience in a dental surgery. You should approach the following and endeavour to get a mix of work experience. Contact as many as you can in order to secure some work placements.
Work Experience - Veterinary Medicine
All the veterinary schools expect some pre-application work experience in a variety of fields - farms, stables, kennels or with vets. The RVC specifies that this must total at least four weeks, while Liverpool specifies a minimum of 10 weeks.
Work Experience is essential in strengthening your application and you should do everything you can to secure hands on animal work. This could be in vets, pet shops, farms, kennels, zoos, rescue centres, catteries, stables, RSPCA, RSPB, PDSA and other animal charities and welfare organisations such as Blue Cross. The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (www.bsava.com) has many links to animal welfare sites. Particularly useful would be to help out on a farm during lambing. Take notes about some of the cases you see. Even try abattoirs, labs and racetracks. Unfortunately there is no easy way to secure these placements apart from locating them through the internet and yellow pages and then ringing them or visiting them. Ensure you obtain references from your placements.
In your summer holidays also check out overseas veterinary placements - for example WVS (Worldwide Veterinary service) offer a number.
There are about 60 zoos, and 100 wild animal collections in the UK. Go to the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums www.biaza.org.uk for a full list by area.
Companion Care Vets have about 90 surgeries across the UK and offer work experience to students in full time education.