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10+ Year Member
Feb 13, 2008
Medical Student
After looking through a good portion of the 299 posts that up when searching "clinical experience" I've yet to run across a post offering a definitive answer the relatively simple question of what is or is not considered significant clinical experience.

I realize that we all come from diverse backgrounds and have different perspectives on the question, but I'd think with the few MS 0's, students and adcom members that frequent the board, that we might be able to come up with a general consensus on what's realistic to expect from a traditional or semi-traditional applicant these days. And not to seem pretentious or assuming, but I was thinking that since it seems to be such a popular question (300 posts??) with such varied answers, that we might be able to sticky/add it to an FAQ somewhere to end the debate once and for all..

The criteria that keep getting thrown around seem to consistently involve:
-- Direct, face-to-face patient contact "Close enough to smell patients"
-- Interaction with medical personel/exposure to the American medical system (and the challenges and pitfalls thereof).

Certain experiences seem to be consistently regarded as significant clinical experience, but may not be reasonable for traditional applicants:

-- Clinical research: Interviewing patients re: health history (Ideal, but an admitedly rare experience)
-- Work experience as either an EMT, CNA, M.A, or other position requiring a completion of a certificate-granting program or other form of post-secondary education aside from a Bachelor's.

Now, there seem to be a handful of experiences that occupy a sort of grey region, about which there doesn't seem to be much consensus:

They include:
-- Shadowing
-- Hospital volunteering
-- Work experience in a clinical setting (PCP's office, etc) limited to clerical work (Patient contact, but not really significant?).
-- Mission trips (those that involve patient care present ethical dilemmas, and those that don't seem to represent glorified shadowing, or "voluntourism")
--Others? (I've seen everything from Hospice to Soup kitchen??)

One could argue that "Clinical experience" is just a broad term encompassing a spectrum of different experiences, but different schools seem to have widely varying attitudes regarding the aforementioned activities, some going so far as to say that some activities (Shadowing in particular) don't constitute clinical experience...

Is anybody who's particularly well-informed willing to offer his or her insight on the issue?


10+ Year Member
Jul 2, 2006
Medical Student
a clinical experience is only as good as you can write about it.

for some, volunteering has given them amazing opportunities. for others, not so much. when you have a job such as clinical research, you're automatically engaged and involved. you have to be a fool not to be able to take something away from it.


Moderator Emeritus
10+ Year Member
Jul 14, 2007
I think that there are so many different outlets to achieve clinical exposure that it's hard to lable any one experience the way you are trying. I believe it is a lot more useful to point an applicants exposure and involvement with their clinical exposure, whatever it may be, and how much they were able to glean from that.


10+ Year Member
Sep 14, 2008
That's a really good list. I was wondering if shadowing someone in another country also counts as shadowing and clinical experience.
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