How important is clinical experience and service to underserved communities for a nontraditional applicant? In my case I am working full time as a biology teacher not going back to school to do prereqs as some nontrads.
Well, with the tremendous amount of applicants that do have clinical and other volunteering experiences it really is an "unwritten" rule that yes you probably should have some. Many non-trads applying to medical school this year have gained acceptance and from my understanding most of us had a good amount of volunteering.
Hmm, ok. I spoke to one nontrad who got accepted a few years ago and she said that the clinical experience was not an issue because she was working fulltime with a family and going back to school. But maybe I should get busy.
While it certainly won't hurt I don't think it is required. I think your teaching experience will be beneficial. Shadowing Docs (even if it is not in an underserved community), being well read, and demonstrating a passion for medicine in other ways will be helpful. Ultimately, just make the most out of all your experiences to date to make your case for acceptance in your application.
helping the underserved is an excellent way to get clinical experience....and if you feel this is something you wish to do when you get your license then there are special programs you can apply to like Drew along with the other "normal" medical schools you would apply to as well.
I am sure that we all know of one person that got into medical school w/o any volunteering clinical experience but that is the exception rather than the norm. If you have zero clinical experience although you are working FT and that is great well many folks work FT, go to school, have families and still find 2-4 hours per week to volunteer so it can be done. If you are not taking any classes then you should have some time to volunteer/shadow. I guess it just depends on how you want to present yourself. I knew that I did not want to apply twice or even take the MCAT twice so I gave it 200% from the getgo. Yeah sure maybe I would have received an acceptance w/o volunteering/shadowing but to tell you the truth it was a great experience and I saw what I was getting into and this provided for great interview conversations. What will you answer to the "do you know what medicine may entail?" if you have never shadowed/volunteered in a clinical setting? if you have prior clinical experience then disregard this whole post.
So go right down to your local ER and sign up for a weekly stint. I found it an exhilarating experience and it made all the boring pre-req classes fit into a greater context. I learned a ton about myself and about medicine as well, that has helped me in other medical related positions.
Getting growled at by the triage nurse, or barked at by a busy resident is very valuable experience for the world of medicine, as well. And I am being totally serious about this, too !
As a nontrad student, you have had a lot more time on your hands to investigate medicine and ensure that you really want to have a medical career. Not having clinical experience is a red flag that you might not understand what you're getting into.
Personally, I believe that volunteering is critical if you are interested in clinical medicine. If you want to be a MSTP or other researchy doc, then you need serious research chops instead.
I worked FT, took bio lec/lab, chem lec/lab, and volunteered at three different hospitals on varying schedules, all at the same time. You don't get any extra points for overloading, most people just spend their time on one volunteer experience.
I picked one volunteer post in primary care, one in hospital care, and one in a hospital pathology lab. I wanted to cover all the bases. I loved all of these little jobs and still keep up with them when time permits.
I have been told by a med school interviewer that primary care, particularly with the underserved, is a very big plus. This interviewer was concerned that many students hadn't worked with very sick, very poor people before.
If you do a volunteer experience, try to get a setup where you can get a great recommendation out of it. If you're just showing up on an ER floor with a rotating series of nurses, there's no one person that can write about what a great doctor you will be. Try to have at least one volunteer posting where you get a decent amount of face time with one physician who can then write an engaging and personal letter about your exploits.
Your top priority should be your enjoyment, not a recommendation or a line in the "extra activities" section of the AMCAS form. If you don't like the volunteer post, ditch it and find something new. You may even find that medicine is not what you expected.
Uncomfortable hospital experiences help you confront your doubt about becoming a physician (and you will feel this!) which will make you a better interview candidate when they ask, "why medicine?"
While I also agree that volunteering/research/shadowing are not absolutely essential, I felt I needed to round out my application ("beef it up," so to speak) in order to compensate for a GPA that was anything but stellar.
In my case - as is the case now in med school - I'm trying to do other things that help round out my education and show that I'm more than just a bunch of numbers.