Work experience in the NHS

This work experience hub draws together important resources and good practice examples from across the NHS.

9 January 2024


This collection of good practice aims to support NHS employers with their work experience activity. It highlights examples, top tips, and useful resources to equip employers to set up work experience opportunities and establish buy-in from senior leaders and supervisors

A key resource for this work is NHS England’s More than Photocopying Work Experience - A Toolkit for the NHS. This comprehensive toolkit defines the different types of work experience, and their benefits, and includes editable templates to help set up placements.

Benefits of work experience

  • Promotes your organisation as a good employer in your community.
  • Engage, inspire, and inform young people about working life in healthcare.
  • Positive work experience placements can help future employees make informed career choices.
  • Supports members of the community, with the opportunity to practice work-related skills in preparation for employment.
  • Allows staff to develop new skills in supervision and mentoring as part of their continuing professional development.
  • It can help the transition into T levels, apprenticeships, and higher education.  Read more about how work placements can mark the beginning of an NHS career.
  • Supports the implementation of the Government’s careers strategy to educate young people on the range of opportunities available in the NHS, learn new skills and get first-hand experiences in the workplace.

Placing students first at United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS

This video shows the importance of student experience in the work experience journey. Ensuring the work experience offer aligns with the students’ needs and expectation can increase uptake and spark an interest in a career in the NHS. A standardised process for matching students with work experience is the fairest way of ensuring parity of access for students, rather than allowing them to rely on their own knowledge or contacts. The trust facilitates this through a locally developed work experience platform, with a standard application form, widening participation and reducing administrative burden. 

Re-establishing work experience

Due to the pandemic, work experience opportunities across the NHS were put on hold, but now many organisations are resuming their programmes. Check out the best practices below for trusts that are restarting their activities.

Find out how Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust reimagined their work experience programme after the pandemic. Their approach ensures that the programme is offered fairly, to more students than before, and places a reduced burden on staff. 

Restoring work experience at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust

Prior to the pandemic, the trust supported 600 young people per year to undertake work experience via a combination of individual ad-hoc placements and structured programmes. The trust was keen to reopen this popular route.

The trust focussed on the benefits work experience candidates bring to the trust to obtain internal buy-in and planned a phased approach over a year long period.

The trust has three approaches to work experience:

Ad-hoc placements - support individuals who have contacted the work experience team directly.

Taste of medicine - a weeklong programme that runs three times a year for young people interested in a career in medicine. The programme supports them to make informed career choices and bolster their university applications. Learners attend an induction session, clinical skills sessions and a presentation from the University of Manchester medical admissions team supported by current medical students. Plus, undertake shadowing placements with medical staff over the course of the week.

Taste of healthcare - this programme is run seven times a year to support up to twenty young people either currently studying a healthcare qualification (health and social care BTEC/CACHE diploma) at a local college or interested in pursuing a career in healthcare (nursing, midwifery, allied health professions). Learners are hosted by a ward or clinic for a week and undertake shadowing of various staff members and support with basic tasks in line with the trust’s safe placement guidelines.

Manchester made changes to ensure their processes are aligned with NHS England’s best practice guidance and NHS Work Experience Toolkit recommendations, as well as wider local strategies including Manchester Work and Skills Strategy. The trust also completed this work to help gain an NHS England work experience gold quality standard accreditation.

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“The work experience entailed example patients, from the patient seeking advice from the GP, all the way to the histopathologists analysing the inflammation. At the multi-disciplinary team meeting it was nice to see how the oncologist and pathologist share their knowledge and findings to reach a diagnosis.” - A young person who completed work experience at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust.

Successfully recommencing work experience at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust

Following the pandemic, the trust wanted to restart work experience in departments that were experiencing less pressure and were therefore ready and best suited to the work experience programme. These departments allowed the trust to test what would work well and use the knowledge they collected to get buy in from other areas. This targeted and gradual approach contributed to the successful re-establishment of the programme.  

The re-start gave the trust an opportunity to consider how an online space could help provide access to information about placements and supplement face-to-face learning. The team created a work experience web page and added a section for online learning packages.

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“Providing work experience can be seen as yet another ask, but it really does produce benefits or return on the time invested. Engaging with young people creates an awareness of your department/service and when the young person is ready to apply for jobs their experience influences their employer of choice. You are creating a pipeline of interested young people. You may ask a member of staff to manage the work experience provision, which will provide opportunities to develop management skills. Another aspect of staff development provides staff with mentoring, coaching, and skills transferrable to line management. Often the benefits to young people are thought of, but the other side is forgotten.” - Michelle Place, Apprenticeships and Widening Participation Lead, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust

Work experience approaches

Each organisation approaches work experience differently, learn how these organisations successfully implemented an approach that worked for them.

Mental health, learning disabilities and neuro-rehabilitation work experience at Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust

The trust aimed to educate young people about their career options within the organisation to ensure a larger workforce supply after they finish education at 18.

The trust offers nurse work experience placements on in-patient wards and in the community. The trust’s education support nurses, who support a five year Registered Nurse Degree Apprenticeship (RNDA) programme students, developed a timetable that included experience with community mental health teams, neuro services, community services, recovery college, and a ward which offers a therapeutic environment to help with rebuilding living skills. The trust also developed an induction booklet for the programme and incorporated this into their supporting learners/work experience policy.

The trust’s medical education team coordinates one-week work experience placements for students over 16 years of age who live in the Northeast and are intending to apply to medical school.

The trust offers Project Choice placements for young adults with a learning disability, disability, mental health issue or learning difficulties, or autism to gain work experience and improve their employability and independence.

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“Young people are key to our future workforce development and if we don’t support them in their learning when they’re at school or college, we can’t expect them to think of us once they are aged 18. Not everywhere will be a suitable placement, so we concentrate on where we can achieve placements rather than where we cannot.” Gail Bayes, Deputy Director of Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust Academy Development

After being established for two years the nurse work experience programme has created a workforce supply route for the RNDA. Since launching two years ago, they have recruited 31 people onto the apprenticeship. 

The trust offers three months of paid part time work experience as supernumerary staff in mental health and learning disability wards before the RNDA starts.

Two of those recruited withdrew following the work experience element having decided it wasn’t the career for them and weren’t therefore enrolled onto the apprenticeship. This has reduced the attrition on the course and made space for those who are sure this work is for them. 

A new work experience offer at Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust

The trust offers work experience of up to ten days to those aged 14 and above in clinical and non-clinical settings to help students understand the impact the NHS has in their local community.

The trust provides payments throughout the organisation including nursing, IT, HR, medicine (over 18s only), administration, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and finance.

The trust also delivered an introduction to allied health professions. This is a new five-day course aiming to provide attendees with an overview of five of the allied health professions.

Applications are open for two weeks twice a year which allows the trust to manage applications and placements better.

Students are asked to provide three areas they would like to be placed in, and a choice of three dates they are available.  

The students are also asked to write a supporting statement about what they hope to get out of work experience, this helps the trust select the right placement for them.

Work experience opportunities are advertised on social media, the trust website and are emailed to schools/colleges contacts. They are also promoted at careers events and internally to highlight to colleagues.

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“Work experience is an interesting and important way to experience Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust, and the wider NHS. It will gives young people an impression of the work that we undertake, and the difference they can make. That difference can be to the wider community, families, carers and most importantly, our patients.” Stephen Collman, Chief Executive, Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust

How Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust promoted their work experience offer

Hampshire engaged learners by running onsite work experience through their friends and family scheme which extended to individual requests from local students.

The trust developed insight days where they offered an all-day interactive experience to students in local schools and colleges who are interested in a healthcare career. This includes a myth-busting session, and a Q&A panel with current trust staff talking about their roles and career pathways. Then an afternoon of interactive workshops covering simulation technology, resuscitation techniques, and handwashing. The day ends with career guidance on both apprenticeships and UCAS applications.

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“Learning the difference between clinical and non-clinical roles and how the NHS is not only made up of doctors and nurses was really interesting and something I hadn’t really thought about”. A young person who completed work experience at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) showcase a variety of roles through their career session and ‘hands-on’ experience

NHSBT provide observational healthcare science themed work experience programmes to students in years 10 to 13. Learners spend time with blood collection teams, in specialist laboratories and processing departments, and learn about organ and tissue donation. The programme demonstrates the variety of healthcare science and other roles, both clinical and non-clinical. Students participate in a career session and gain 'hands-on' experience in a practical in a training lab and experience their virtual reality laboratory.

Provide directly recruited and hosted work experience and placement opportunities, such as their Biomedical Science sandwich placement programme. They also partner with organisations such as Project SEARCH and Health Data Research UK. 

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“Work experience provides valuable insight into the variety of roles at NHSBT and the lifesaving work of the organisation. These opportunities raise our profile as an employer of choice in their local area supporting us to create a diverse workforce representative of those communities. Similar opportunities for NHSBT colleagues raise awareness of development and employment opportunities, including apprenticeships, ensuring as an organisation we have the right mix of knowledge and skills to meet the needs of our donors, and patients across the NHS.” Sonja Long, Placement Manager, NHS Blood and Transplant

Virtual work experience at Humber and North Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership

The project funded by Learning, Environment Assessment and Placement (LEAP) programme provides virtual work experience in a Hospice environment.

Based on a partnership between St Mary’s College and Dove House Hospice, Hull, the project supports students aged 16-19 with a virtual systematic review of health and social care values, case studies and application of care planning within a multi-disciplinary team.  Plus, career specific guidance from the relevant professional with the multi-disciplinary team as well as a one hour onsite task guided by team members. Visit Humber and North Yorkshire LEAP Programme or sign in to HNY LEAP Future NHS platform to learn more.

Top tips for offering work experience


These resources have been selected to support you to launch and build your work experience programme. They include practical tips, specific advice and useful links.

For further information or if you have examples you would like to share, please contact the education, skills and redesign team on