CLINICAL

Clinical experience is an important facet of your application. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), “admissions committees look to see that your application conveys evidence of empathy, service orientation, ethical responsibility to self and others, an awareness of what a career as a practicing physician entails, as well as other characteristics and strengths.” You should approach gaining clinical experience with intentionality. Rather than pursuing opportunities in hopes of fulfilling a “requirement,” you should commit to a cause that you are sincerely interested in instead of doing a number of “one-off” events.

Clinical experience can help you:

  • Learn how to interact with patients and their families
  • Gain insight into the business, social, and political aspects healthcare
  • Witness the the day-to-day life of a healthcare professional
  • Get experience being around sick and dying people

Make the most of your clinical experiences and the time you spend in this effort by reflecting on your experiences. Keep a journal. Make a note of your observations, your insights, the impact, etc. Asking yourself a few key questions following your experiences will also help you craft your application and interview answers. Be sure to keep track of your experiences using the experience log and journal.

Informational Interviewing

Informational Interviewing is another great way to learn more about health care professions. Some hospitals, clinics, private practices, and offices have strict requirements and do not permit shadowing, but the professional may be willing to sit down with you and talk with you about their career.

The Center for Career in Professional Development maintains Wisr, the Kalamazoo College Career Mentoring Network that is designed specifically to help individual K students and alumni connect. In Wisr, students browse secure lists of alumni who are working in fields that they’re interested in exploring, and then request one-on-one advisory sessions on topics ranging from applying to graduate school to developing skills for success in a particular field. Agendas for the advisory call include specific questions to guide the conversation, and the call is scheduled and facilitated within the platform to protect contact information.

Be sure to be professional in your dress and demeanor. It is always nice to follow up with a thank you note as well.

Core Competency Connections

  • Social Skills
  • Oral Communication
  • Written Communication

Volunteering in a Clinical Setting

Clinical volunteer experiences involve volunteering in a healthcare setting, such as a clinic or hospital. It’s important to remember that your volunteer work should be meaningful to you! Clinical community service should not be looked at simply as a way to “check the box.” Working with organizations and populations that are important to you will allow you to have more meaningful experiences and a desire to continue to give back.

Clinical Volunteer Opportunities in Kalamazoo Area:

Core Competency Connections

  • Service Orientation
  • Social Skills
  • Cultural Competence
  • Teamwork
  • Oral Communication
  • Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others
  • Reliability and Dependability
  • Written Communication
Shadowing

Shadowing provides the opportunity to experience the day to day life of a healthcare professional by observing patient interactions. Medical schools highly value shadowing experience and a variety of shadowing experiences is encouraged for exposure to different types of health care providers and settings. Most schools do not require a certain amount of shadowing hours, but be sure to check the school(s) you are interested in to verify if shadowing is a pre-requisite. Some hospitals, clinics, private practices, and offices have strict requirements for shadowing. Be sure to be professional in your dress and demeanor. It is always nice to follow up with a thank you note as well.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Approach health professionals you already know first.
  2. Ask fellow students if they know someone you can shadow.
  3. Call or email physicians at clinics, private practices or hospitals in the area.
  4. Briefly introduce yourself and your goals.
  5. Arrange a shadowing time or recurring schedule that works for both of you.
  6. Be prepared to get turned down, but keep asking other health professionals.

Read more detailed advice and ideas from the AAMC’s How Do I Shadow a Doctor guide.

Shadowing Resources

Core Competency Connections

  • Social Skills
  • Cultural Competence
  • Oral Communication
  • Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others
  • Reliability and Dependability
  • Written Communication
Working in a Clinical Setting

It is often difficult to find opportunities that allow people who lack medical training to participate in medical procedures. However, the AAMC has a list of five ways to gain experience without shadowing. There are options for students to participate in paid clinical experiences, but many paid opportunities require a significant time commitment and prior training, so students often choose to engage in these experiences during the summer or during a growth year.

Medical Scribe: A medical scribe specializes in charting provider-patient encounters in real time, such as during medical examinations. A medical scribe’s primary duties are to follow a healthcare professional through his or her work day and chart patient encounters in real-time using a medical office’s electronic health record (EHR) and existing templates. 

  • Interested in becoming a Scribe, check out Scribe Academy. The GVSU Scribe Academy’s program is designed to train individuals to assist healthcare providers by documenting patient care in the electronic medical record. Students enrolled in the program are trained in the classroom, online, and in the clinical setting.  Students that successfully complete the program will be hired as hourly employees of Helix Scribe Solutions with placements possible in Bronson hospitals. 

Allied Healthcare Providers: There are several allied health professions that require minimal training (less than 1 year), making them ideal for pre-health students looking to gain experience during school breaks or growth year(s). These professions allow individuals to gain hands-on experience in a healthcare setting. To explore additional healthcare jobs that require minimal training, visit the Explore Health Careers website.

  • Phlebotomists: Phlebotomists collect blood for donation or for testing so the blood can be analyzed in a clinical laboratory. Phlebotomists work in clinical laboratories, hospitals, community health centers, nursing homes, doctor’s offices, blood donation centers and other health care facilities. To become certified, you must complete 200 training hours and pass the national certification exam.
  • Medical Assistant: Medical assistants perform routine administrative and clinical tasks to keep the offices and clinics of physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors and optometrists running smoothly. Many employers prefer to hire Certified Medical Assistants, however some clinical practices hire assistants provide on-the-job training. To become certified, you must complete a formal training program and pass the CMA Certification Exam. To find training program, visit the AAMA website. You can search for certificate-granting programs, which are generally shorter in length. For more information, see the Explore Health Careers website and check out the Medical Assistant Student Resource Guide.
  • Nurses Assistant: Nursing assistants help patients perform basic daily tasks. They work under a licensed nurse’s supervision, and since they have extensive daily contact with each patient, they play a key role in the lives of their patients and in keeping the nurse up to date on vital information about the patients’ conditions. To become certified, nursing assistants must complete a state-approved education program.
  • Health Care Interpreters: Health care interpreters facilitate communication between patients with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and their physicians, nurses, lab technicians and other health care providers. Minimum requirements for the profession vary greatly from state to state. Most healthcare institutions prefer certified interpreters who have completed a training program.
  • Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs): EMTs provide first-line medical or emergency care for sick and injured people at the scene, which may be in the person’s home, at an accident site, or other places, and while they are being transported to the hospital for care. All states require EMTs to be licensed. EMTs usually complete a course that takes between 120 and 150 hours to complete, while AEMTs usually complete 400 hours of training. To obtain certification, individuals must complete an accredited Emergency Medical Services-Paramedic education program  and pass the national exam. Education programs typically take less than one year to complete.

Summer Enrichment and Pipeline Programs: The Association of American Medical Colleges maintains a database for summer enrichment and pipeline programs.

Core Competency Connections

  • Service Orientation
  • Social Skills
  • Cultural Competence
  • Teamwork
  • Oral Communication
  • Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others
  • Reliability and Dependability
  • Resilience and Adaptability
  • Capacity for Improvement
  • Critical Thinking
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Scientific Inquiry
  • Written Communication
  • Living Systems
  • Human Behavior