Learning more about paediatrics - for medical students

Paediatricians are passionate about helping infants, children and young people, and their families. Are you in medical school and curious about paediatrics? This page aims to provide the information to help you gain more of an understanding of this rewarding and varied specialty.
Last modified
8 September 2020

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 paediatric experience nor paediatric-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 - whether shadowing, volunteering or placements in related areas. Those experiences will help you decide whether to apply for paediatrics and 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, Teddy Bear Hospitals, where 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 are always keen to help support and promote new societies and their events.

We also work closely with the United Kingdom Aspiring Paediatrics Society (UKAPS) supporting them with the work they do. If you become a medical student member of RCPCH (it's free!), you'll be automatically linked in with UKAPS.

Attend events

Aside from events run by the medical societies, there will many opportunities to speak to paediatricians at careers events across the UK - or online - organised by universities and foundation schools and also trusts and hospitals.

You can also sign up for RCPCH membership to get regular updates - giving you the chance to get involved and find out more.

The UKAPS Conference is normally held in the autumn at a different university each year, though is on hold this year due to COVID-19. In usual circumstances, the conference allows attendees from each university to attend talks on various areas of paediatrics, and speak with paediatricians, RCPCH and UKAPS representatives. The event has grown every year since it was first held at the College in 2016.

In addition, RCPCH Conference is a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the hugely varied world of paediatrics. It normally takes place over three days - with opportunities for students to present and display posters and abstracts. This year we're hosting RCPCH Conference Online, with a series of free, online sessions.

Apply for one of 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 online

You can watch our videos about choosing paediatrics on this website or our Twitter feed. Search #choosepaediatrics on Twitter to hear more about why paediatricians love their specialty. Feel free to ask questions on the hashtag too - many of our members are keen to chat and share their experiences.

We also have a series of online careers workshops, usually on Wednesday evenings - keep an eye on our events listing. And don't worry if you miss seeing them live - you can also catch up on our YouTube playlist.

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 information and opportunities, as well as updates and regular eBulletins from RCPCH and UKAPS.