How to get an observership in the NHS without dying while trying. By Maite Leonardo

Maite Leonardo Cabello

Maite is a doctor who is specialised in Paediatrics. She is in London to get experience in the NHS and of course to improve her English. 


Maite has written this for The Writing Project . . . .


How to get an observership in the NHS without dying while trying.

By Maite Leonardo


My boyfriend had been living in London for five months when I decided that I could not miss the chance. I moved to London and my main aim was to improve my English and, of course, to enjoy the experience.

As a doctor, I was really keen to find out about the job of a UK doctor and how the health system works here in the UK. The obvious thing was to get a job here as a doctor, but to do that  I would have had to pass an English test, difficult if you just arrived and have never lived or worked in an English speaking country.

But I had a brain wave. It would not be difficult to get permission to spend short periods of time at a hospital, only as an observer, watching how my colleagues work here. I would kill two birds with one stone: learn English and get familiar with the NHS.

But I was wrong, to get an observership is not a piece of cake. After several emails to different doctors at different hospitals I did not have any responses . . . I think it is always better to have a quick negative answer than no answer at all because at least you know where you stand – you can easily get older and more and more desperate waiting for an answer.

I have a friend here in London, she is a doctor too and she works in a big hospital so I decided tell her about my lack of progress looking for an observership, and as it turned out it was the key, after 1 or 2 weeks and several emails, I got it! (well…to be absolutely honest, she got it for me).

Everything is easier if you know someone who is already working at a hospital, references in the UK are really important.

When I decided that I wanted to get to know a different department in the same hospital I was dreading going through the same again, but once you get your foot in the door it is easier.

Today I have a new challenge! I am trying to get another observership in a different hospital, and I don’t know anybody there but luckily, I am an expert at chasing people up by email and staying calm.

Some advice …

An observership is a good way to improve your English and become familiar with the work environment.

One thing you need is a lot of time and patience to achieve it so, start now and do not despair, it is worth it!

Make use of your contacts… Whoever has a friend has treasure!

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