Clinical experience is mandatory prior to applying to medical school. In addition to shadowing physicians you should have extensive (>250 hours in total) experience in a hospital or clinical setting. This can be easily accomplished by volunteering at a local hospital. The experience is invaluable in helping you to understand how the healthcare system works, how a hospital works, and the role of the physician in the greater context of these systems.
To find volunteer opportunities at hospitals, we recommend the following:
- Start by seeing if your college has a premedical advisor that can direct you to participating hospitals/clinics. You are not the first premed student to look for these opportunities. Some hospitals/clinics are more familiar with students and have already created student-oriented volunteer programs.
- Your college or university may be affiliated with a medical center. These medical centers are teaching institutions and they usually have volunteer programs. Check out their website to look for volunteer opportunities. If they don’t have a website, call the hospital and ask them about volunteer opportunities.
- Look for other hospitals around your college or anywhere you have access to. Check these hospitals websites or call them and ask them about volunteer opportunities.
- Some hospitals have internships available for premed students. These opportunities are geared towards giving students a structured hands-on learning experience and are highly recommended.
- Vary your volunteer roles. If you are only transporting patients or lab samples try to ask for other opportunities or find alternative volunteer positions. You want to see as many aspects of the hospital as possible.
Once you find a volunteer opportunity you should expect:
- To fill out an application and give information for a background/criminal check
- An interview or orientation
- To have a TB test performed (this will likely need to be arranged for by you with your own physician, and paid for by you)
You may feel that your role in the hospital is minimal, and you are right. You may be folding linens or delivering items to patients. You may be cleaning beds or taking samples to the lab. You have to tolerate this for some amount of time. The objective of your role in volunteering is two-fold. First, you are cultivating your dedication to service. If you don’t like service to others then you should not pursue a career in medicine. Second, you are learning how the hospital and healthcare systems function. You will see the behind-the-scenes activity in the hospital that keeps it up and running. As you gain experience with these areas you should seek greater responsibility or a variety in what you are able to observe or assist with.
- Extracurricular Activities
- How You Can Get a Research Position at Your School
- How to Shadow a Physician
- The Medical School Application Process: Overview