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Clinical Experiences for Premeds

Along with completing prerequisite coursework, doing research, and shadowing,  clinical experience is also required to be considered competitive for medical school. These experiences are essential since medical schools want to ensure applicants have the necessary skills to be a physician. Also, showing the motivation to gain exposure before medical school is important since portraying that you know what it takes to be a physician and juggling your time to do this ensures more success. Medicine is a dedication that will be lifelong, along with medical school, residency, and fellowship, so indicating that you know this is what you want to do is significant to programs. 

What is Clinical Experience? 

Clinical experience can be defined as “actively engaging with patients or their care.” This can include shadowing a physician, volunteering as an EMT, or working as a scribe or pharmacy tech. Non-traditional experiences like being a caregiver can also count as clinical experience, depending on the medical schools you’re applying to. 

Unpaid Clinical Experience

There are two types of clinical experience: paid and unpaid. Unpaid clinical experience can involve shadowing or volunteering with a medical organization. Good volunteer experience can create more interpersonal relationships through networking and a different perspective on medicine and healthcare. 

  1. Shadowing involves following a physician throughout their day as they interact with patients, diagnose conditions, and prescribe medications. Doing this can give you an idea of a physician’s responsibilities and seeing if you’d be interested in the field. 

  2. Volunteer EMT is another great unpaid experience. EMT volunteer programs also allow certification, which will allow a more hands-on approach for patient care. 

  3. A Medical Center Volunteer also has several duties to do such as admitting new patients, greeting and guiding patients and visitors, doing administrative tasks, and attending to families in the waiting room. Some medical centers look specifically for pre-med students or are connected to universities. 

  4. Hospice Volunteering involves being a source of comfort for hospice patients and their families. This will prepare you for the more difficult parts of being a physician. 

  5. Emergency Room Volunteers are a source of comfort to families in emergency rooms. Your role will include providing comfort items like blankets, pillows, and sometimes toys. You’ll gain exposure to helping individuals work through a range of emotions like anger, anxiety, and grief. Maintaining yourself as compassionate and brave while working with patients who are going through similar moods is an important skill to have as a physician. 

Paid Clinical Experience

These types of experiences will help with gaining exposure while getting paid. Many of these opportunities often involve being certified or trained. On-the-job training is also offered if you decide to choose a paid clinical experience. If that is not offered, being certified can increase the chances of getting a clinical job. Make sure to perform well in your work and form strong connections with your supervisors; you can ask them for recommendation letters. 

  1. Medical Scribes hear and write down the interactions between the physician and patient. They can also transcribe medical histories and diagnostic results. 

  2. Emergency Room Technicians have a more active role in contrast to Emergency Room Volunteers. They can dress wounds, take samples, and check vitals. They can be exposed to various fast-paced emergencies, which can help with thinking on your feet. 

  3. CNA, or Certified Nursing Aide, are usually under the supervision of a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Registered Nurse (RN). They help with tasks of bathing, eating, grooming, and moving of patients. 

  4. Phlebotomists are able to  draw blood working in clinics or hospitals. This can give exposure to different types of patients. Working in a different medical setting like a hospital or clinic can also ensure you increase your network and have more connections. 

  5. Pharmacy Technicians usually work in retail pharmacies such as pharmacies where you can go to pick up medications or hospitals. A hospital setting for this can introduce you to what to expect when you work in one as a medical student and resident. Even more, having an idea of the different types of medications can give you an advantage in medical school as you’ll already be exposed to pharmacology. 

How to Choose Clinical Experiences

Any experience that exposes you to patients, whether paid or unpaid, is enough to be considered clinical experience. When determining what clinical experience to do, consider your interests, other commitments, and time in general, as you need to see how many clinical hours you can commit to regularly. For instance, a part-time opportunity would be best if you’re a full-time college student since your GPA is the priority. Try to plan for at least a couple of months of whatever clinical opportunity you decide to do to show that you can do a position for the long term: quality over quantity! 

How to Find Clinical Experiences 

The first step you can take is to ask people in your network, such as your family doctor, for shadowing opportunities, science professors, or your pre-med advisor if there are any affiliations with nearby medical centers or hospitals. You can email physicians in your area or ask in person. Try to secure more than one opportunity. Some universities offer EMT training, so look into the courses your university offers. Universities also often have pre-med or other health-related organizations that offer volunteering opportunities. Hospitals usually have a volunteer coordinator that you can look into and contact for more information. 

Don’t Worry!

While you may be worrying about how many hours you need, try aiming for at least 100 clinical hours. There is no concrete requirement for many medical schools, so be consistent with the hours and ensure you genuinely want to do whatever opportunity you get; it can be hard to be consistent if it’s a field you’re not interested in. Keep trying, and you’ll eventually get an opportunity. Good luck!

Thank you for reading, 

Siri Nikku 




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