In the last of our series on NHS work experience, a nursing and physiotherapy assistant at Southampton General Hospital gives a staff perspective


Over the past five years, we have actively promoted our work experience scheme and I have been fortunate enough to be responsible for it at ward level.

Michael, 17, arrived today for a week's placement. He was nervous but really keen to learn. He definitely wants to be doctor, so I think he was a little disappointed to be greeted by me. He will soon learn it is not the doctors who run the wards!

He spent the day on the ward with the staff and patients. As the day wore on, you could see his confidence growing as he asked more and more questions. By the end of the day, he was a different person to the one who had arrived this morning.


Michael was really excited this morning. You could tell that spending time in surgery was one of the reasons why he came here for work experience. This is the great thing about a work experience programme. Any young person who wishes to pursue a medical career needs the chance to experience the workings of a hospital.

Young people are the future of the NHS and early exposure to how it operates can really strengthen their resolve and commitment to pursue a medical career. When Michael came out of surgery, he was raving about how skilled the surgeons were and the intricacy of the procedure. Tomorrow, Michael is spending the day with me on the ward. It probably will not live up to today's experience, but it will be just as important for his future career.


Today we are helping Gerry, who is recovering after a tumour was removed from his brain. He is having problems regaining full use of the left side of his body and physiotherapy is really important.

We wanted Michael to see that although surgeons are important to the team, they are just one element. I strongly believe this is one of the most important aspects of the work experience programme. For students like Michael, being able to see first-hand how every member of staff plays a part in delivering care is essential.

Gerry wound Michael up a bit, but he took it well. He said he found it inspiring to see a patient go through so much pain and keep on joking. He also said he learned a lot about physiotherapy - in other words, it is a lot more than sports injuries.


Today, I asked Michael to think about communication with patients rather than the clinical side of the job. We try to get across to our students that a patient needs to be treated as an individual. Each will have different needs that must be treated with respect, and being able to communicate with patients is a significant part of this.

We wanted him to pay particular attention to the way staff acted with individual patients. Being able to communicate with patients can be the difference between a good healthcare professional and a brilliant one.


For his final day with us, we thought we could keep Michael busy and spend time with as many different staff and patients as possible. Quite similar to his first day, but now you could see he had more confidence and even a spring in his step.

As with all the young people who have been involved in our programme, Michael said he enjoyed his time on the ward and benefitted from the interactions with patients and staff. It would be interesting to speak to him again in five years' time to see how these early experiences influenced his career.

As part of its Step into the NHS programme, NHS Employers is helping trusts set up work experience programmes. Further information is available at