What Do You Learn from GP Work Experience?

Having the opportunity of work experience in medicine is invaluable. Not only will potential medicine interviewers be looking for you to recount your experiences in the healthcare setting, but the chance to shadow doctors is the only real way of knowing if a career in medicine is something that appeals to you. The Royal College of GPs has recently announced that they funding more GP work experience placements. GP work experience offers a different perspective of this in the primary healthcare environment.


Shadowing GPs during your GP work experience

A large proportion of your time during GP work experience will be spent shadowing GPs whilst they are running clinics. General practice is exactly that, general. So whilst you might only see a select cohort of patients in a particular hospital speciality, GPs see patients right from their first few days of life up to patients who are in their final few days.

The format of a GP consultation will be to first take a history – a series of questions about the patient’s symptoms ­– before examining the patient. And then organising any appropriate investigations such as blood tests. GPs may then decide to offer or prescribed treatment, such as medication, physiotherapy, or more conservative management options.

In addition, during GP work experience you will see GPs dealing with all kinds of medical pathology, ranging from paediatrics to psychiatry. GPs not only manage health anxieties but also must look out for serious conditions, so try to look out for questions they ask patients to rule these out.

Some GPs also run clinics for minor procedures such as small surgical interventions, for example, the removal of skin tumours. Furthermore, for patients who cannot get to the GP surgery, GPs will carry out home visits, which you may be able to join in on, on GP work experience. This is an insightful perspective into patients’ lives and can often be a useful reminder of how social factors influence medicine.

You will be able to observe during these as well. This means that the breadth of medicine you will see on GP work experience will be unprecedented compared to any other hospital experience.

For an example of a day in the life of a GP, read ‘A day in the life of a GP’.

What should you do whilst shadowing?

It is often helpful to reflect on each consultation after each one takes place during GP work experience. Bring a notebook to jot down information after each patient appointment. Make a brief note of the patient’s story and how it was managed by the GP, but importantly think about the bedside manner of the GP and what they said or did to make the consultation effective. For example, it can be helpful to think about language a GP used to deliver information or explain a concept.

What else with GP work experience involve?

GPs work in practices that include several different medical professionals. During GP work experience you may be able to shadow nurses as well, running their own clinics, midwives seeing mothers before and after delivery, and psychologists who may be providing psychological therapy for patients. Even though each member of staff may work in a separate room, think about how the different professionals communicate with each other during meetings. General practice, after all, is holistic and there may be psychological and social factors that may be affecting the healthcare of patients that will be important to all of these professionals.



The best thing about GP work experience is that it is invaluable to your application. You should look at how to get GP work experience as far in advance of your medical application as you can.

GP work experience offers the opportunity to see a wide range of medical conditions across all demographics, and an invaluable chance to observe the practice of medicine in the community. You should work at getting the most from your work experience at a general practice and keep notes of your experiences for future reference throughout your application.

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Further Reading

No plans for this summer? Why not do your GP work experience? Summer is the perfect time to start your GP work experience. Yes, it might mean time away from your friends, but it will certainly boost your personal statement and it is a great way to work towards a future within the medical industry.

So take a Summer to explore your GP work experience options! Why not?