Clinical experience is exposure to the medical field in a clinical setting. There is much debate on what is and isn’t considered clinical experience by medical school admissions committees. However, there’s no argument that medical schools look more favorably on those that have extensive clinical experience than those that don’t.
For the sake of argument, this article considers all forms of clinical exposure as “clinical experience” as it pertains to premedical students.
Clinical Experience and Medical School Admissions
How important is clinical experience to a medical school application? It really depends on the nature of the experience. Working in a clinical setting where you are exposed to many doctors and other clinical professionals may help your decision to become a doctor – regardless of its impact on your med school application. However, there are several reasons that clinical experience may provide you with an edge over other medical school applicants.
Commitment to Medicine
A commitment to medicine is important to all admissions committees. Why? Well, you’ll likely be spending the next 8 – 12 years around medical professionals… just for medical school and residency. A commitment to medicine also includes the determination factor in becoming a physician. During the time it takes to become a physician, future doctors are likely to endure stresses on the wallet and in the classroom that would probably deter many others early in their career. Therefore, the need for medical students to be unwavering in their efforts to succeed are necessary.
Commitment to Service
A commitment to service is also important. The life and career of a physician involves the care of patients. Generally speaking, medical professionals help foster each patient’s emotional, medical, and spiritual health.
Clinical Experience considerations
It’s important to consider a few core topics when thinking about how you want to gain clinical experience in preparation for medical school. First, you should consider the field in which you would like experience. Next, you should weigh the importance of other factors on your medical school application – such as whether to work, volunteer, or both.
Premedical students should choose to gain clinical experience in the field that they would prefer to enter. For example, if you hope to become a family physician, it would be in your best interest to pursue opportunities in an environment such as a physician’s office or the emergency room.
Paid Clinical Experience
Paid clinical experiences include those in which you received monetary payment in return for labor. The benefit to paid clinical experiences are obvious, however, there may be drawbacks. Benefits to paid clinical experience include hands-on patient care experience as well as making money.
One drawback of paid clinical experience is the potential requirements needed for clinical employment. Many clinical jobs require a license or certification, such as an EMT or RN. In addition to licensure or certification, these jobs usually require additional training for the work environment. Also, these licenses and certifications could be time-consuming, which mean less time and effort may be dedicated to studying and academics.
Another drawback of paid clinical experiences includes flexibility. Paid employment usually lacks the flexibility premedical students require to complete an undergraduate degree.
Also, paid employment may serve negatively to a premedical student’s application. This depends on the mission of the particular medical school to which you may apply. Paid employment may bring up a question of “willingness to serve”. This may be important if a particular medical school focuses highly on the local community. Medical school admissions committees may see paid employment as a reluctance to volunteer.
Unpaid Clinical Experience
Volunteer clinical experiences include those in which you are not paid for your services. Volunteer work can serve your medical school application well if planned appropriately. If your volunteer experiences are poorly directed, your application may suffer more than you benefit.
The most important consideration when choosing a volunteer activity is motive. Ask yourself, “What in the medical field am I passionate about?” Think about why and how you want to help people. Do you love children? Volunteer in a pediatric hospital. Is your grandmother your favorite person and friend? Consider volunteering in an elderly home.
The next most important consideration when choosing volunteer clinical experience is exposure. Consider what you will be doing and the environment in which you will be.