How Important is Volunteering/Shadowing?

Newguy92

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    So, I'm a sophomore right now, and since last semester I've been trying to volunteer at the hospital near my school but its proving to be difficult. Last semester I attend the hospital's volunteer orientation and got all of the required tests and paper work done, but they appeared to have trouble getting my documentation to the volunteer office. By the time that was straightened out, fall semester was practically over so I decided to wait until this one. Well now, I've been emailing them, letting them know when I was available. The last one I sent was about a week or so ago, I don't want to be overbearing or pushy, but...I need to start getting some hours!

    Also, I would be the only doctor in my family, so I don't have many connections in the medical field, so finding someone to shadow is proving to be impossible.

    I'm planning on trying to volunteer at my home hospital during the summer, but I'll be studying abroad for the first two months, leaving me with about only 4-5 weeks to volunteer. (Then plus winter break possibly)

    If I manage to finally get a response from the hospital near my school. Do you think I will be able to get enough clinical exposure by the time I apply? I mean, I'm doing other things like research and other EC's, (but not medically related)
     

    aSagacious

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      Clinical experience is absolutely essential. It would be unwise to spend a quarter million dollars and upwards of a decade only to find out that professional medicine is not what you had imagined as a teenager. Better to figure it out sooner than later.

      In other words, try not to just sign up for volunteering gig 'to get it out of the way' and 'check it off your list' but instead go into it with an open mind and sincerely try to imagine yourself in that environment 60+ hours per week.
       

      Stumpyman

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        To directly answer your question, at a rate of 4 hours a week and if you have about one and a half year until application time, then it is moderately sufficient. Hospital volunteering isn't the only way to get clinical experience though, have you tried free clinics, hospices, etc?

        I think finding ongoing, direct clinical experience is more important than shadowing right now for you, as shadowing can be done during the year you plan to apply.
         
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        aluminumleaflet

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          During my interviews this cycle, I spent a lot of each interview talking about my volunteering and shadowing experiences. I used a lot of anecdotes from these experiences to really substantiate not only why I want to go into medicine but what I've learned about medicine as a premed. So yeah, I believe that shadowing and volunteering are absolutely necessary. Of course, one thing I wish I had gotten into more was nonmedical volunteering - You should consider that too. I feel like I was denied a few interviews (Loyola and Jefferson come to mind) because I was lacking in nonmedical volunteering even though I had about 200+ hours of medical volunteering.
           

          zhaozer

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            Going in to this cycle, I actually have never done any in-hospital volunteering (0 hours); instead, I found my interest in non-clinical volunteering. Goes to show that you don't "need" hospital volunteering to get into med school.

            To familiarize myself with the hospital setting, I shadowed a few doctors. My advice would be to go for multiple physicians in different fields and 1-2 days max with each, rather than doing a long-term thing with just 1 doctor. There is only so much you can learn from each physician at the pre-med stage, and it's better to get a wide spectrum of experiences.

            If you like hospital volunteer work, you should keep at it. But if the hospital is simply giving you grunt work that you don't find rewarding, having that extra line on your app that says you did XYZ hours in a hospital isn't going to hurt or help you too much.
             

            Stumpyman

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              Going in to this cycle, I actually have never done any in-hospital volunteering (0 hours); instead, I found my interest in non-clinical volunteering. Goes to show that you don't "need" hospital volunteering to get into med school.

              To familiarize myself with the hospital setting, I shadowed a few doctors. My advice would be to go for multiple physicians in different fields and 1-2 days max with each, rather than doing a long-term thing with just 1 doctor. There is only so much you can learn from each physician at the pre-med stage, and it's better to get a wide spectrum of experiences.

              If you like hospital volunteer work, you should keep at it. But if the hospital is simply giving you grunt work that you don't find rewarding, having that extra line on your app that says you did XYZ hours in a hospital isn't going to hurt or help you too much.

              Yeah, well I'm sure going to Harvard undergrad and scoring a 41 on the MCAT didn't hurt either. ;)
               
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