Free Medicine Work Experience (9 Exciting Opportunities)

Updated on: December 3, 2023
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Written By Dr Ollie

Every article is fact-checked by a medical professional. However, inaccuracies may still persist.

Once you know where to look, there are absolutely tonnes of free work experience opportunities available in the UK- all of which are perfect for supporting an application to medical school.

By volunteering your time with an organisation you’ll often get back far more than just the hours that you put in.

From personal development, to making new friends, to just having something that will look brilliant on your application!

Work experience for medicine doesn’t just have to look like shadowing a doctor on the wards or in a GP practice for two weeks; it can look like any of the 9 exciting and totally free opportunities below.

Telephone Befriending With Age UK

Apply here with Age UK

Age UK is a charity dedicated to supporting elderly people across the UK.

They do this by providing financial and legal advice to the elderly, supporting their health and wellbeing through group classes and education and helping those in need of care or housing- (amongst a host of other valuable services).

One of these other support services is their telephone friendship service.

Age UK befriending service as work experience

It’s an initiative to combat loneliness in the elderly. Volunteers are paired with an elderly person with shared interests and they simply have a chat on the phone once a week.

I think this would be a fantastic way to get some high-quality work experience from the comfort of your own home!

There’s a huge amount of crossover from the empathetic listening skills you’ll need for telephone befriending and those needed for being a doctor.

Age UK does mention that they’re looking for a commitment of at least a year from their volunteers- but at as little as 30 minutes a week this really shouldn’t be hard to achieve.

Brighten Care Home Residents’ Days

Apply here with MHA

Volunteering at a care home is an absolute classic when it comes to work experience for medicine.

But with good reason!

As a doctor, the elderly will make up a large proportion of your patient base and are usually the most complicated patients when they come to see you.

Getting hands-on experience caring for and supporting them now will give you a brilliant insight into some of the rewards and challenges you’ll face treating them as a clinician.

Working in a care home can see you helping at meal times, organising activities, assisting with washing and dressing the residents or even just making conversation with them!

All of which will give you a tonne of fantastic experiences to reflect on in your personal statement or at interview.

I volunteered at a local care home for 12 months prior to my medicine application and absolutely loved it.

Apply above with MHA (the largest charity care provider in the UK) or you can actually find an exact email template for reaching out to your local care homes in my article ‘How To Get Work Experience For Medicine.’

Work In An Oxfam Charity Shop

Apply here with Oxfam

Working in a charity shop is a great way to work with colleagues towards a common goal, interact with the public and make a difference to causes that truly matter.

Charity shops are also normally more than happy to accept additional volunteers, whatever your experience level.

I’ve used Oxfam here as an example, but there are loads of different charities that run high-street storefronts, from the British Heart Foundation to Cancer Research UK to Sue Ryder.

You can either apply online or just walk down your local high street with a few copies of your CV in hand and enquire with each charity shop you come across.

I didn’t work in a charity shop when I was applying to medicine but did actually get involved with a local Oxfam shop once I was there.

In the first couple of years at medical school, with plenty of free time, I used to work just a couple of hours each Saturday morning helping the shop put some of the more valuable donations up on eBay to be auctioned off.

It was a great way to feel like you’re giving back a bit and meet some other young volunteers.

Become An NHS Cadet With St John Ambulance

Apply here with St John Ambulance

“NHS Cadets is a new St John Ambulance programme created in partnership with the NHS. It’s designed to provide you with the opportunity to explore roles in healthcare. We’re looking to recruit Cadets from a diverse range of backgrounds, as well as those who may have never considered volunteering in healthcare before.”

If your application is successful, you’ll meet with other NHS cadets once a week during term time for a 90-minute session led by an experienced youth leader.

In these sessions, cadets explore a range of healthcare topics in addition to a focus on personal development and building vocational skills.

Cadets meet in groups of 20-30, so you’ll be surrounded by like-minded individuals, and after completing the 36-week program you’ll be able to add your certificate of completion to your CV.

There are two parallel streams to the program, one for 14-16 year-olds (foundation pathway) and one for 16-18 year-olds (advanced pathway).

(Check out this article if you’re a bit younger and want to make a head start on your work experience.)

The foundation pathway contains modules which will develop your transferable skills in areas such as compassionate leadership, effective communication, and healthy teamwork whereas the advanced pathway will broaden your understanding of healthcare, both globally and closer to home.

Get Hands-On At The National Trust

Apply here with the National Trust

Volunteering with the National Trust could be a great way to get some work experience for medicine whilst getting to work outside and learning about history.

The National Trust has a huge range of opportunities available- from being a volunteer mountain ranger to helping restore rare historical artefacts.

Medicine work experience at the National Trust

What they all have in common is that you’ll be working in a team, expanding your skills and meeting new people. All the perfect ingredients for good medicine work experience.

I think it would be a great choice for a placement if you’ve got an interest in British history or love the idea of getting to manage woodland while simultaneously improving your medicine application.

Support People With Learning Disabilities Through MENCAP

Apply here with MENCAP

MENCAP is a charity dedicated to supporting people with learning disabilities, their families and their carers.

They work with a network of over 300 local groups to reach people across England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

To volunteer with them, you can do anything from working in one of their charity shops, visiting people with learning disabilities in your local area, helping organise fundraising events for the charity or taking part in their befriending program.

I used to work a part-time job as a swimming teacher when at school, so to bolster my medicine application I managed to find some work coaching a swimming club that specialised in children with special needs.

Getting to work with children with learning disabilities in a professional capacity was a great experience for me as a teacher, as well as being a real eye-opener to how talented some of these kids were!

I’m pretty sure some of the stronger teenagers were faster swimmers than I was!

Any form of volunteering or paid work with children or adults with special needs will go a long way to improving your communication skills as well as looking good on your application.

Improve Children’s Lives With Barnado’s

Apply here with Barnado’s

Barnado’s protect, support and nurture the UK’s most vulnerable children via their 800+ services across the UK.

Their brilliant work includes helping children through the trauma of sexual abuse and exploitation, providing support for young people in care, supporting families through domestic abuse, mental health problems, prison sentences, asylum seeking and much more.

“Whether helping customers in a shop, doing essential admin in the office or working directly with young people at a service, our volunteers make a huge difference to children’s lives.”

To volunteer with Barnado’s, you essentially have four main options to get involved:

  • Volunteer in a shop
  • Volunteer with children
  • Become a fundraising volunteer
  • Become an office volunteer

Whichever one you choose, you’ll know that you’re helping to make a positive impact in a vulnerable child’s life.

Being able to interact in a friendly and effective manner with children is a vital part of being able to successfully treat them as a clinician.

Volunteering with Barnado’s would set you up with a solid foundation from which to build your paediatric consultation skills at medical school, as well as help you to get an offer in the first place!

Teach A Child To Read With Bookmark

Apply here with Bookmark

Bookmark is a charity that focuses on teaching underprivileged children to read.

They do this through a flexible volunteer-led program, that involves two 30-minute sessions each week for six weeks with a child who needs extra support with their reading.

In an average class, 8 children leave primary school unable to read well.

This can be either face-to-face in a local primary school, or virtually through Bookmark’s secure online platform.

Teaching children to read as medical work experience

This can make it really easy to fit in around any other work experience commitments you may have.

As a volunteer, you can arrange reading sessions via their mobile app and get help with anything you need from other volunteers online.

My mum actually does exactly this at a local primary school where we live- although it’s through another organisation that’s very similar to Bookmark.

Although she’s not applying for medicine(!) she does find the sessions incredibly rewarding.

Support The NHS As A Volunteer Responder

Apply here with the NHS

What a lot of people don’t realise is that the NHS is in fact massively supported by a small army of volunteers who are kind enough to donate their time to help out our health service.

Many NHS organisations are also opening up volunteer roles for young people from the age of 16, and some now offer youth volunteering programmes for 16 and 17-year-olds.

NHS roles available range from vaccination centre managers to emergency response volunteers to being an on-ward volunteer.

Your local hospital is likely to have a choice of volunteering options, coordinated by a Volunteer Service Manager, or you can use the more general link above.

I’d have a look by Googling “[name of your local hospital] + voluntary services.”

Hospital applications can take a long time to process, with the paperwork and required DBS checks, so try and give yourself plenty of time by applying well before you plan on submitting your application to medical school.

Final Thoughts

I still remember all the different volunteering I did to build my medicine application incredibly vividly- which pays testament to how much I learnt from the experiences and actually how much fun I found them!

Longer-term commitments always look better on an application than rushed, short-term positions. So if you can, try and stick around in a role for at least 4 months (ideally 6 months to a year).

Although I’ve listed 9 great options above, there are hundreds more available at your fingertips just by having a quick Google.

If you have any particular interests or passions, or perhaps a skill that you could teach, don’t be afraid to seek out your own voluntary position in that field as it will undoubtedly still help you on your journey to medical school.

About the author
After studying medicine at the University of Leicester, Dr Ollie now works as a junior doctor in London. His interests include medical education and expedition medicine, as well as having a strong belief in the importance of widening access to medicine.