Data Entry: Clinical/Medical Volunteering?

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I'm a nontrad applicant who's volunteered several hundred hours to manually screening patient records for entry into various international databases. I've also created one such database myself going through the entire IRB process. Both of these activities are obviously "clinical" in a broad sense, but I'm not sure whether these count as clinical volunteering hours. I know the rule of thumb is that you have to be close enough to patients to smell them and this largely doesn't fit the bill. However, it also feels unaccurate to call this non-clinical volunteering. What do you all think?

Thanks very much for your help!

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I'm a nontrad applicant who's volunteered several hundred hours to manually screening patient records for entry into various international databases. I've also created one such database myself going through the entire IRB process. Both of these activities are obviously "clinical" in a broad sense, but I'm not sure whether these count as clinical volunteering hours. I know the rule of thumb is that you have to be close enough to patients to smell them and this largely doesn't fit the bill. However, it also feels unaccurate to call this non-clinical volunteering. What do you all think?

Thanks very much for your help!
It could be unpaid employment. But no it doesn't really apply as direct patient care or clinical experience.
 
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It could be unpaid employment. But no it doesn't really apply as direct patient care or clinical experience.
Hi Mr.Smile12, thanks very much for your response. Should this go under the "other" section then, as I don't see an unpaid employment section? They were volunteering hours, so it seems a shame to lose the label (even if the retorical benefit is minor). Is there any real risk to my application if I choose to label them clinical volunteering? It seems likely they'll disagree and effectively recategorize them, but at least both the volunteering and medical link will be plain.
 
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It’s not clinical.
 
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Could you explain how you got this position? Sure, it could go under the Other category. What it is not (apparently): clinical, research, or community service on face value.
 
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Could you explain how you got this position? Sure, it could go under the Other category. What it is not (apparently): clinical, research, or community service on face value.
The first data entry experience happened years ago. Worked (unpaid)/did research fulltime in a hospital setting. The data entry played no role in my research.

The second experience happened recently. I was creating a clean clincial dataset from a large publically available one. The process was so complex and timeconsuming that I reached out to the organisation running the database and offered to share my dataset and code with them. It started a months-long collaboration where I poured through patient records trying to fill missing data and fix errors in the database. Ultimatley, it helped produce argueably the international goldstandard public clincial/genomic dataset for our topic disease. To clarify, this was all outside of research since I'd long since done the work I needed. I just did it to try to help other researchers.
 
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I’m still not sure why you think this is clinical volunteering. You do not interact with the sick, injured or dying. You really weren’t interacting with anyone. You were coding for months. As far as I can tell, you never even saw a patient doing this project.
You initially said that both of these activities are clinical in a broad sense. Your first activity might be research since that was what you were supposed to be doing. The second activity isn’t clinical volunteering . The only thing clinical about it is the data base you were using/developing. I’m thinking part of your concern is that you have no or very little clinical experience otherwise. But trying to pass off these activities off as clinical volunteering probably won’t work. Application reviewers are smart and they will know you have limited, if any , contact with sick people. It’s not that they will shift that experience to someplace else but they will note you don’t meet the expected experience criteria.
 
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I’m still not sure why you think this is clinical volunteering. You do not interact with the sick, injured or dying. You really weren’t interacting with anyone. You were coding for months. As far as I can tell, you never even saw a patient doing this project.
You initially said that both of these activities are clinical in a broad sense. Your first activity might be research since that was what you were supposed to be doing. The second activity isn’t clinical volunteering . The only thing clinical about it is the data base you were using/developing. I’m thinking part of your concern is that you have no or very little clinical experience otherwise. But trying to pass off these activities off as clinical volunteering probably won’t work. Application reviewers are smart and they will know you have limited, if any , contact with sick people. It’s not that they will shift that experience to someplace else but they will note you don’t meet the expected experience criteria.
Hi candbgirl, thanks very much for reaching out. I do actually have a couple hundred hours of clinical volunteering, though it was from a few years ago. Perhaps my interpretation of volunteering is too literal, but I consider it volunteering because I worked with no compensation for hundreds of hours since it seemed like the right thing to do. As to the clinical aspect, I poured through thousands of physician notes. Though I wasn't physically in the clinic for most of it, it's inherintely clinical. I believe that working behind the scenes in medicine is still worth expressing in the application. Unfortuantely, there's no appropriate volunteering category for odd situations like this.
 
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Your interpretation of volunteering pretty accurate. The only issue might be the phrase “because it seemed like the right thing to do”. So nobody asked you to plow through thousands of patient records? You just did it? And technically it wasn’t really related to your PhD. Was anyone aware you were doing this and sharing this and sharing the results? Seems like some confidentiality issues but who knows.
You obviously are intent on using this experience as volunteer clinical experience.Actual ADCOMS have advised against it but you still won’t even consider it. I am glad that you have some clinical experience from a few years ago. Hopefully that will suffice.
Good luck.
 
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Your interpretation of volunteering pretty accurate. The only issue might be the phrase “because it seemed like the right thing to do”. So nobody asked you to plow through thousands of patient records? You just did it? And technically it wasn’t really related to your PhD. Was anyone aware you were doing this and sharing this and sharing the results? Seems like some confidentiality issues but who knows.
You obviously are intent on using this experience as volunteer clinical experience.Actual ADCOMS have advised against it but you still won’t even consider it. I am glad that you have some clinical experience from a few years ago. Hopefully that will suffice.
Good luck.
Hi candbgirl, all of the work was of course done with physician supervision as part of a larger, official initiative. All confidentiality protections were followed and all proper documents signed. It was my participation which was voluntary. That being said, I’ll likely move these out of clinical since I received much stronger pushback than I was anticipating. This certainly isn’t the hill I want to fight and die on. Thank you very much for helping me to see that. I would also like to apologize if my responses came off as rude. It wasn’t my intention.
 
Agree with others that this is not clinical, but I'm curious why folks don't think this is research. It's clearly not hypothesis testing, but it is hypothesis generating. This is an underappreciated part of the scientific process and nobody wants to put in the grunt work, but creation of a good clinical dataset can be invaluable.

I would personally count this as research hours.
 
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If this is research it is the keyboard equivalent of washing dishes.

It could be "other" but mostly it was something no one wanted to pay to have done, or spend their own time doing. Not sure if it will ever result in generalizable new knowledge that will advance the cause of scientific discovery. It sounds as if it satisfied your curiosity about others' medical records and notes.
 
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If this is research it is the keyboard equivalent of washing dishes.

It could be "other" but mostly it was something no one wanted to pay to have done, or spend their own time doing. Not sure if it will ever result in generalizable new knowledge that will advance the cause of scientific discovery. It sounds as if it satisfied your curiosity about others' medical records and notes.
Hi LizzyM, I didn’t participate in this work out of some sense of voyeurism. Regardless of their utility in a medical school application, it’s critical work. As an epidemiologist, I work exclusively on data others have gathered in large repositories, and I spend something like 70% of my time trying to clean them enough to analyse. Someone has to compile and clean these data, and I had the time and inclination to help.
 
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It could be considered research or non-clinical volunteering.
 
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If this is research it is the keyboard equivalent of washing dishes.

It could be "other" but mostly it was something no one wanted to pay to have done, or spend their own time doing. Not sure if it will ever result in generalizable new knowledge that will advance the cause of scientific discovery. It sounds as if it satisfied your curiosity about others' medical records and notes.
As someone who spent a decent amount of time making an institution-level database as a fellow which then took some time to lead to a medium-impact publication, I disagree. Like I said, it's thankless and mind-numbing work that nobody wants to do, but there is a time and phase in life for people getting into clinical research to do this kind of grunt work. And the eventual publication is only as good as the data that goes into the database, so having someone who is adept at mining medical records for the relevant pieces of data and is able to do so in a standardized manner (rather than doing so in a haphazard way that could never be used by anyone else) is in and of itself a useful skill.

There is a reason the creation of these databases have to go through IRB review. It is research. Not everything has to lead to a publication for it to be worthwhile.
 
Someone has to wash dishes, too. And feed the mice, and do all those other housekeeping chores that are required for research. But don't expect tons of brownie points for having done essential but mind-numbing work that might eventually lead to publications. Doing a doctoral dissertation is going max out the credit given for research with the database creation counting for very little despite its importance to the research enterprise.
 
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Someone has to wash dishes, too. And feed the mice, and do all those other housekeeping chores that are required for research. But don't expect tons of brownie points for having done essential but mind-numbing work that might eventually lead to publications. Doing a doctoral dissertation is going max out the credit given for research with the database creation counting for very little despite its importance to the research enterprise.
Ultimately, without being fully familiar with the OP you're probably right that this project is irrelevant if they have a PhD (though I'm not sure where that was said?).

But I strongly disagree that this is on par with "housekeeping." I can ask any undergrad to do those tasks essentially without any supervision. It is very, very easy to put together a database full of garbage information which is unusable. Putting together a database which is useful and can actually lead to publications is quite difficult and requires significant training. The fact that my mentors felt that it was important enough to devote a fellow (me) AND a resident to a database creation should give some sense about the level of skill that is needed to make these sorts of resources useful. So if there is an undergrad/med student/grad student out there who can do this sort of work unsupervised and for free, I would *love* to work with such an individual.
 
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Well, I think this has fairly conclusively answered my original question. Thank you all very much for taking the time to help explain where this experience stands. As it’s quite a small part of my application, I’m comfortable with it essentially passing as flavor text. However, I do genuinely appreciate you all clarifying what clinical really means from a physician’s perspective. Having spent so long just adjacent to doctors, I suppose I slowly began viewing clinical research as, perhaps not synonymous with, but certainly a central component of the “clinic” in a broad sense. This has been incredibly useful for grounding me and ridding me of that perception. Thank you all again for your help. I really appreciate it.
 
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