What is Considered Clinical Experience for Medical School – Overview
Medical students often struggle to understand the clinical experience. When you are wondering how to prioritize your medical school’s extracurricular requirement, it is crucial to understand the clinical experience. You should also be aware of the different types of clinical experiences and how each of these can help improve your medical school application.
Everyone wants to have a strong and impressive medical school CV, and no one wants to have glaring gaps in the CV just because of not knowing about the requirements. To help you along the way, here are some important facts about what is considered clinical experience for medical school.
2 Types of Clinical Experiences
Here are the two main types of clinical experience required for medical school in the US:
1. Volunteer Clinical Experience
Volunteer experiences are generally regarded as different from clinical hours and sometimes overlap. It is advisable to take up some volunteer clinical work while you are figuring out how to meet this requirement.
For unpaid clinical experience, you will normally volunteer to work at a clinic, hospital, or any similar medical facility. These medical centers usually have an ongoing requirement for volunteers to fill in for administrative and service tasks. This type of clinical experience is best if you are looking for a less demanding part-time clinical experience.
Besides this, most medical students find volunteering at healthcare facilities an excellent way to connect with experienced members of their aspiring profession.
However, you should ensure that your role as a volunteer involves a significant amount of hands-on medical activities, not administrative or clerical tasks. If the present position does not allow you to do so, you can request the hospital administration to assign you tasks that involve more exposure to the clinical side.
2. Paid Clinical Experience
Many students also choose to find jobs at hospitals or clinics to get paid clinical experience. However, there are certain restrictions to this. For instance, most medical undergraduates need more time for a full-time job, as they are usually involved in demanding pre-med courses and working on other admission requirements. So, a part-time job on weekends or in the evenings is an excellent choice for such students.
Meanwhile, getting a paid job involving clinical duties may be challenging for younger students, especially as they need more qualifications, certifications or advanced medical skills. This is common knowledge, so most medical schools are relaxed about undergrad applicants not having significant paid clinical experience.
This is usually true when you are a traditional medical school applicant still completing your undergraduate degree.
However, the rules regarding applications from non-traditional medical school applicants are different. For instance, if you have not been studying for some time after school and currently working in a clinical position, such as PA or nurse, you should have thousands of hours of clinical experience under your belt. In the same way, if you take a gap before medical school, you can choose to work at a full-time paid volunteer position by taking a pre-med gap year job to strengthen your resume.
It is important to remember that regardless of the clinical hours under your belt, you will have to prove their meaningfulness in your application to the medical school. A well-drafted application that is backed by significantly long and meaningful clinical experience can give you an advantage over other non-traditional applicants.
3 Places to Get Clinical Experience
Medical schools consider relevant clinical experience to be the one where the applicant has first-hand clinical experience. This is crucial for the medical school’s admissions committee to determine a few things about the applicant.
Meaningful clinical experience lets the applicant know what they are achieving by pursuing a career in medicine. Clinical experience helps to develop the skills required for direct patient care and treating people from diverse backgrounds. Relevant experience at a hospital or clinic prepares the students to understand hospital and clinical environments and what it means to work as part of a dynamic medical team.
Lastly, and most importantly, having relevant clinical experience is a sign that the medical school applicant is committed to becoming a licensed physician.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the top 3 places to get clinical experience for medical school:
1 – Shadow a physician
Shadowing a physician is one of the most common ways to get relevant clinical experience before medical school. Licensed doctors often allow students to observe direct patient care, which lets the students understand the reality of working as a healthcare provider. By shadowing a physician, you get clinical exposure and the opportunity to get mentoring from a professional who can continue to guide you as you move up your medical career.
You can contact a pre-med advisor at school or within your college network to ask for leads for local opportunities to shadow a physician.
2 – Volunteer at a Hospice
Volunteering to work at a hospice is another common way to get relevant clinical experience before medical school. Hospice care is mainly focused on maintaining the quality of life for individuals suffering from time-limiting illnesses.
You can expect to have a varied role when working as a volunteer at a hospice. You can contact the Hospice Foundation of America (AFA) to learn about local opportunities for hospice volunteers, at their official website here https://hospicefoundation.org/Volunteer.
Your role as a hospice volunteer will generally involve supporting the patients, offering support to their families and caregivers, as well as working closely with the institute’s bereavement staff.
Pre-med advisors suggest that hospice volunteering can probably be the most effective way for pre-med students to understand the toll of caring for a dying patient. This position can help you learn fundamentally valuable skills essential for a career in medicine.
3 – Volunteer as an EMT
Volunteering as an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) is an excellent way to get entry-level care provider experience. There is a distinct fast pace and unpredictability to working in an ambulance. It helps pre-med students by exposing them to various medical conditions and scenarios they may face while working in emergency or critical care units.
Emergency medical technicians must respond to a wide range of potentially fatal issues, such as car accidents and cardiac arrests, besides minor complaints like sprained ankles. Volunteer EMTs also often work closely with other professionals like firefighters and police officers. It gives pre-med students a great opportunity to understand the specific healthcare needs of the community they serve.
Clinical experience is crucial for aspiring medical students to realize the fundamental duties they will need to perform as certified physicians. It also prepares them with the skills and know-how required to become an empathic healthcare provider. You should ensure to seek hands-on experience in a position that involves direct patient care.
Handling administrative and clerical responsibilities before pre-med school is not considered clinical experience. You can talk to a pre-med advisor for specific details and information on what is considered clinical experience for medical school.
I am a dedicated healthcare researcher and an enthusiast specializing in medical grants, medical education and research. Through my articles, I aim to empower healthcare professionals and researchers with valuable insights and resources to navigate these critical aspects effectively.