Being a pre-med student is a rewarding experience, but it can also be daunting. One of the most intimidating aspects of being a pre-med student is gaining clinical experience.
Clinical experience involves working with actual patients in hospitals, clinics, and other medical settings. It provides invaluable hands-on learning that can shape a student’s career and help pre-med students decide if the medical field is right for them.
Here are five ways to gain clinical experience as a pre-med student.
1. Shadowing Opportunities
Pre-med students can gain real-world clinical experience by shadowing medical professionals. One of the easiest ways to explain shadowing a doctor is when an observer or student follows a physician or another healthcare provider while they go about their daily activities.
It provides pre-meds with insight into what typical patient care is like and provides them with valuable insight into medical practice. Shadow opportunities can take place in hospitals, ambulatory settings, surgery centers, private practices, and more, as well as potential fields of specialties for pre-medical students to explore. These include family medicine, general internal medicine, OB/GYN, orthopedics, and neurology.
The best way for pre-meds to find shadowing opportunities is by networking with healthcare professionals—their professors, local physician offices, or advisers. Also, many health systems are making it easier by offering specific programs for pre-med students to apply to.
2. Volunteer Work
For any pre-med student hoping to gain clinical experience, volunteer work is an excellent way to do it. While volunteering in the healthcare field doesn’t count as official clinical experience on a medical school application, it can be invaluable in developing empathy and sharpening problem-solving skills. These are all essential traits for future doctors.
It can even help pre-meds during their medical school interview by giving them real-world stories and scenarios to draw on. By volunteering, you become more familiar with the workings of a healthcare system and develop a better understanding of the medical conditions you’re likely to encounter later in your career.
Even if it isn’t something that “counts” towards getting into med school, volunteering will give you great perspective and experience as part of your professional development journey.
3. Internship Programs
Internship programs have been an excellent way for pre-med students to gain clinical experience in their field of interest. It’s important to find an internship that fits your personal and professional goals and offers a comfortable and safe environment for learning and medical application.
Many internships require shadowing doctors at hospitals or clinics, wherein interns observe them as they work with patients. This is an excellent opportunity for pre-meds to get to grips with the day-to-day tasks related to the medical field, such as data collection, analyzing patients’ charts, and following up on test results.
Also, more advanced internships may offer opportunities to practice specific clinical skills, conduct research, or collaborate on projects with other medical professionals. Ultimately, pre-meds should seek internships that can help them develop essential knowledge, skills, and experience if they’re serious about pursuing a career in medicine.
4. Clinical Rotations
One of the essential elements of a pre-med student’s path to becoming a doctor is gaining clinical rotations. They offer students an incredible opportunity to observe and work closely with medical caregivers in various hospital and clinic settings.
During their clinical rotations, pre-med students get firsthand knowledge of the medical environment and gain an understanding of treatments and procedures they will be working with in the future. They develop essential interpersonal skills, such as communicating effectively with other healthcare team members, and learn how to provide care for diverse patient populations.
Additionally, these clinical experiences are invaluable for helping pre-med students decide what kind of specialty or field they want to pursue upon graduation. All physicians should be delighted that pre-med students can learn so much from these clinical rotations, giving them invaluable insight into the profession.
5. Clinical Research Studies
Clinical research studies can be an excellent way for pre-med students to gain clinical experience in college. Medical research revolves around finding cures and treatments for various medical conditions, and pre-med students can play an important role by contributing as research assistants.
In addition to giving them real experience in the medical field, participation in clinical studies also allows pre-med students to engage in meaningful work and put their educations to use. Working as part of a team on live projects provides invaluable insight into how the healthcare field operates, something that classroom instruction alone cannot accomplish.
Applying this type of knowledge when it comes time for internships and residency interviews can tremendously impact someone’s future career prospects. For those ambitious pre-meds looking for an edge, participating in clinical research studies could be just the thing they need.
Gaining clinical experience as a pre-med student does not have to be complicated. Plenty of options are available depending on your interests and schedule! Whether you volunteer at hospitals/clinics, participate in research opportunities, shadow doctors, or complete internships/clinical rotations, these experiences will help you prepare for your journey toward becoming a successful healthcare professional.