Applying to Medical SchoolApplying to Medical School

How to Begin Deciding if Medicine is for You

Getting experience in the medical field

By: Akshita Mehta

So you’ve decided that a career in medicine may be for you. You’ve done some research online and found that you will likely need certain courses in undergrad (chemistry, math, physics etc.), some research experience, and also clinical experience that comes with good letters of recommendation. You think to yourself- but I don’t know any doctors, how am I supposed to gain any clinical experience?

Breaking into the medical field may seem tricky, especially without having any physician contacts to reach out to. More and more however, we are finding that clinical experience is vital before entering medical school. Since training can take over 10 years, its notoriously difficult, and you can rack up a lot of student debt in the process, it’s worth it to know for sure this is the path for you before applying. Here’s a list of a few things you can do to get involved:

Reach out to your local hospital

Many hospitals have a local volunteer program where you can help out in several ways. After volunteering in one sector of the hospital, you can contact other coordinators there and ask around for different experiences.

Many hospitals have a local volunteer program where you can help out in several ways. After volunteering in one sector of the hospital, you can contact other coordinators there and ask around for different experiences.

Try a clinician at a University Hospital

If you live close to a University Hospital, there are often faculty willing to take on pre-medical students as these are usually teaching facilities. Many institutions even have faculty advertised and dedicated to helping pre-medical students decide if this is the right job for them.

Read More: A Day In the Life of an OB-GYN

Shadow your friend’s physician parents

Many physicians remember how hard it can be to learn about the medical field. If you ask to shadow them, they’ll probably be more willing to show you around than you might think.

Become a scribe

This is someone who works directly with a physician commonly in the emergency room, and helps document patient encounters. You would learn about common medical conditions, gain exposure to many different types of pathology, and see how physicians interact with patients. You would see everything from emergent surgical problems to broken bones, and possibly traumas depending on the center. You will definitely have contact with doctors in the emergency room who could serve as mentors moving forward.

Read More: Preparing for Medical School as a High Schooler

Volunteer at a nursing home

There are several ways to get involved here, and so much to learn. You can gain exposure to common geriatric medical problems, treatments and different daily obstacles this specific population faces.

It is important to not only gain experience in one sub specialty of medicine, but to try and gain as broad of an experience as possible. Many physicians work within a niche in medicine and one person’s job often looks vastly different than another. In case you don’t truly enjoy the medicine you see in one office, it would be worth it to try an emergency medicine setting, or a surgical unit where you may be more interested. A different specialty of medicine may also interest you more, perhaps try reaching out to a neurology clinic or cancer clinic. Medicine is extremely vast and you should try and have your experience reflect this as much as possible.

Finally, explore other healthcare careers. It is difficult to get a grasp of the number of different ways there are to be a health care provider. Shadow nurses, respiratory therapists, speech pathologists, radiology technicians, and dietitians (just to name a few) to see if you might enjoy another aspect of patient care. You can also consider other related professions such as dental, optometry, or pharmacy school. There are many opportunities to impact patients and so it is important to find the right path to medicine for you.

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