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Blog / The Ultimate Guide To Clinical Experience For Medical School

The Ultimate Guide to Clinical Experience for Medical School

Written by Keenan on Jun 28, 2023

As a premed student, it is essential to gain clinical experience to build your passion and perspective for medicine. Perhaps more importantly, medical applications require substantial clinical experience. Since there are numerous clinical opportunities to choose from, it can often be overwhelming to decide which experiences are best for you. If you don’t know where to start, don’t worry! Listed below is the Ultimate Guide to Clinical Experience for Medical School. 

What Is the Clinical Experience for Med School?

Having any clinical experience on your application is an unwritten rule. However, the number of experiences – not to mention the hours – is a more subjective matter.

Fortunately, the opportunities that usually qualify as “clinical experience” are broad and plentiful. An admissions officer said, “If you can smell the patients, it is a clinical experience.” Clinical experience can be divided into two main categories: paid and volunteer. Examples of paid positions include:

  • Emergency Room Technology
  • Pharmacy Technique
  • Phlebotomist
  • Certified Nursing Assistant
  • Licensed Practical Nurse
  • Emergency Medical Technician
  • Emergency Room Paramedics

The first five items work inside the hospital and require separate licenses. However, the requirements are usually not time-intensive and can be met during undergraduate. Moreover, several universities have their own EMT/Volunteer ambulance service that students can participate in.

Volunteer clinical positions generally do not involve direct medical care because volunteers are neither paid nor trained, but they can still interact with patients. A hospital’s emergency department, assisted living center, hospice, medical center, or other programs sponsored by your university (internship, externship, medical mission) are great to look at.

Try asking a physician to shadow is also a great way to gain guided patient care experience in the specialty of interest. So if this is an opportunity available to you, by all means, take it!

What Counts as Clinical Experience for Medical School?

Paid clinical experience can be simple to gain and the question remains, what exactly are examples clinical experience for medical school?

Emergency Medical Technician

Work as an EMT provides valuable exposure to emergencies. This won’t provide many conversations with physicians, but it will allow you to decide whether the heavy responsibility of medicine is yours to pursue.

Phlebotomy

Phlebotomists interested in medicine will work in a hospital or clinic to take blood samples. Different than an EMT, a Phlebotomist will have more patient interactions in a less stressful environment and is a great opportunity to gain medical experience. 

Certified Nursing Assistant

Working in a hospital would be a beneficial option for increased risk in various patient circumstances. In addition, the hospital environment will allow you to speak with medical professionals and gather important insights. Don’t forget that the point of clinical experience is to prove that you’re taking the time to get comfortable with patients. 

Medical Volunteer Roles

Medical centers often have many opportunities for volunteer hours and are open to the public. Remember that you may come across medical centers that already work with premedical students or have relationships with schools that funnel students to fill volunteer positions. 

Hospice Volunteer

Volunteering at a Hospice Center is certainly an emotional one. Exposure to emotions while practicing the maintenance of a stable internal state is undoubtedly a skill that will be worth fostering. Obviously, the amount and type of clinical exposure you can receive varies significantly based on the opportunity.

Paid Clinical Experience vs. Volunteer Experience

Paid medical experience options will give you the most practical clinical experience. This makes sense as you will be specially trained to work with patients in your role. On the other hand, let’s say you become a phlebotomist and never ask questions or make connections in the hospital. In that case, it won’t benefit you as much as volunteering at a medical center and speaking regularly about medical decisions.

Remember that the goal of clinical experience is exposure to the inner workings of medicine and patient care to prove that you are making the right choice for your future. Therefore, you will need to be able to articulate and justify your decisions at your medical school interview.

How Many Hours of Clinical Experience for Med School Are Needed?

What activities will count as clinical experience? How many hours do you need? Is it obligatory to have a defined amount of clinical experience?

Many applicants ask these questions as they focus on building their extracurriculars for medical school. In addition, most medical school admissions committees look for clinical experience in your medical school to indicate your passion and commitment to medicine. Therefore, it is essential to receive initial exposure in a clinical setting to give your application a strong chance of success.

Clinical experience primarily involves patient interaction in a clinical setting. That’s because it can help students understand ​​what it is like to be a doctor before officially stepping into medical school.

Some schools also recommend that all applicants complete several clinical hours before applying. While the requirements for such a medical school may not be strict, you should meet them if you want a competitive application.

There is no set amount of time required to obtain clinical experience. All you need is a good quality experience done over a long enough time to demonstrate commitment.

It’s not very unusual for med students to have over 500 hours under their belt. Aim for no less than 500, and when in doubt, inquire with the admissions office of your desired school. Think of it this way, an hour once a week for 2 months probably wouldn’t be considered devoted to medicine.

How To Get Clinical Experience for Med School?

Evidence-based medicine relies heavily on research for innovations and treatments. While not mandatory, research experience is viewed favorably by admissions committees. Most research experience will be accessible through your university. Many medical schools offer summer programs that are designed so that students can work under a mentor and learn research techniques. But these spots are often limited, so a helpful strategy is to contact the science lecturers you’ve taken classes with to see if they need help with their research. Even if they don’t have open opportunities, they can often put you in touch with coworkers.

Medical centers and independent research facilities also offer internships for students during the summer and academic year. Contact your college’s career center for other opportunities or see this list of summer programs by AAMC.

In the following, we bring you three main ways to gain clinical experience for med school:

Shadowing

Securing shadow opportunities can be difficult. The simplest way to find shadow opportunities is to simply ask. Your own doctor may be willing to allow you to shadow. School-affiliated medical centers or professors are also good places to start, especially if you have a good relationship.

It’s important to note that when searching for shadow opportunities, seek out the fields of medicine you are most interested in. For example, if you’d rather work with children, seek out pediatricians.

It’s an excellent idea to have more than one opportunity, as long as you make sure you can devote yourself to each one.

Volunteering

If you reach out to your pre-medical counselors or a school medical center, your school may be able to connect you with volunteer opportunities. If they offer their exclusive EMS program, you may find that your school will be one of the few that will offer EMT training. Some schools have hospital affiliations.

If your school does this, ask the volunteer about your options. Determine which option suits your interests and needs. Some local hospitals and medical clinics in your town will also have various options for you to choose from if it is not possible to go through your school.

Many have an online application to volunteer. Often, multiple opportunities are listed. Start contacting to learn more about each and find out which option will be most involved. This will be helpful to make the most of your volunteering experience and ensure that it also provides you with clinical exposure.

When choosing an opportunity, don’t forget that you want to enjoy what you are doing so that it is sustainable. You can do this long enough to build a good relationship with your organization.

Paid Experience

Either training or certifications will be required for the paid experience options mentioned. 

Phlebotomy requires a certificate. The average program is eight weeks, depending on the program and structure chosen. The Red Cross periodically hires phlebotomists they will train, which is helpful because training courses range in price from $1,000 and up.

For other paid clinical experience opportunities, you will need to obtain the relevant certifications. While volunteer EMTs are not paid, some programs train them for free. 

After receiving your certificates, you will apply to these positions like any other job. Be sure to build meaningful relationships and do well in whatever you choose. You may need a letter of recommendation from someone you work with for this role.

Clinical Experience and Medical School Admissions

Whether you are just starting your MCAT journey, or you are solidifying your application for medical school, the team at Jack Westin wants to help you every step of the way. From our range of MCAT Courses, to our Admissions Counseling Services, Jack Westin can provide you with the support you need to get into medical school. For more information about Jack Westin, CLICK HERE.



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