Learning more about paediatrics - for medical students

Paediatricians are passionate about helping infants, children and young people, and their families. If you're in medical school and thinking about your future specialty, read on for information on understanding more about this dynamic specialty.
Last modified
9 December 2019

Get experience in child health

Doctors who apply to paediatrics are assessed on their understanding of paediatrics and child health and need to demonstrate clinical competences commensurate with those of a UK foundation doctor. But, they do not need extensive prior experience nor specific knowledge to join our training programme.

We know that exposure to paediatrics at medical school can be limited. So we encourage you to take advantage of any opportunities to get involved in child health. Those experiences will help you decide whether to apply for paediatrics. And if you do apply, they'll help you feel more prepared for your application and interview.

Get involved with your university's paediatric society

Check if your university has a paediatric society. This is a great way to hear about local events, talks and training.

Paediatric societies are often involved with schemes that allow you to interact with children in a hospital environment. For example, at Teddy Bear Hospitals, children bring their teddy to a fun environment so they can learn about being in hospital and healthy lifestyles.

If your medical school does not have a paediatric society or a Teddy Bear Hospital, then why not look into starting your own? We at RCPCH are always keen to help support and promote new societies and their events. We work with the United Kingdom Aspiring Paediatrics Society (UKAPS) supporting them with the work they do, including their annual conference. 

Look into our prizes

We offer two annual prizes for medical students. They each offer a fantastic opportunity to join our annual RCPCH Conference and exhibition to meet paediatricians and hear about the latest child health research.

  • Medical Student Prize - awarded to outstanding medical students in the UK and Republic of Ireland, as nominated by their school
  • Tony Jackson Memorial Prize - awarded to a medical student or foundation doctor for outstanding personal reflections on paediatric experience

Speak to the paediatricians where you work

We find that paediatricians are friendly and approachable! They're keen to speak to aspiring and new doctors interested in the specialty.

You may be able to shadow a paediatrician, or help with an audit or research project. It's a great way to see how the paediatric team works and help you get an understanding of what it is like to train and work as a paediatrician.

Go to paediatric events so you can meet and network with paediatric doctors. Our own Conference offers highly reduced rates for medical students, and you can attend lectures, workshops and sessions with prestigious speakers.

Consider your elective

You may be able to get paediatric experience during your elective.

The College is not able to help with your elective, nor provide funding support or bursaries for overseas experiences. However, your medical school should be able to advise and help you set this up.

Review the undergraduate curriculum for paediatrics

All doctors come across children and families in their work. So, it's essential that new doctors can competently interact with, assess and care for children and young people. We collaborated with clinicians, academics, parents and medical students across the UK to develop a national undergraduate curriculum for child health, launched in late 2015.

This curriculum identifies the knowledge, skills and attitudes in child health that we believe should be covered at some stage during the undergraduate medical course. It's intended for use by medical students and all those involved in undergraduate child health teaching, both delivery and design.

You can download the curriculum below.

Beyond medical school...

After graduation, UK qualified doctors complete a Foundation Programme, which is normally two years. During their second year of foundation school, doctors can apply for their choice of specialty training, such as paediatrics.

You can start reading our guidance for applying to Level 1 paediatric specialty training. You can start thinking of what you can bring to the application process, including the interview, that will demonstrate your interest and understand of paediatrics.

Paediatric specialty training is a capability-based programme. Our curriculum, RCPCH Progress, launched in mid-2018, focuses on learning outcomes, and sets the standard for the skills, knowledge and behaviours that paediatricians need. We've got some great resources contributed by current trainees and consultants to support those progressing through their training.

It's also ‘run-through’ specialty training programme. This means the years of training run continuously, as long as the trainee progresses sufficiently. We support trainees' career progression in a number of ways, incorporating the Generic Professional Capabilities the GMC expect of all doctors in training.

Become an RCPCH member (it's free!)

Finally - why not join the College? Student membership is free of charge, and you'll enjoy access to a wide range of specialist information and discounts.