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How neccesary is volunteering?

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by DocRunner07, May 29, 2008.

  1. DocRunner07

    2+ Year Member

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    I am barely a non-trad. I graduated with a degree in finance and management last spring and immediately went to school ( ie. the Monday after graduation, yuck), took Bio 1 and 2, Org 1 and 2, Chem 1 and 2, Physics 1 and 2 and am currently taking Genetics and Biochemistry. Taking the MCAT on August 14th and have been getting 35 on a couple of practice tests. I have a science GPA of 3.8 (not counting current 6 hours) and a business GPA also of 3.8. I am also going to be shadowing a very well known and respected neurologist for 20 hours in July.

    Now here is my problem, I have no real volunteer experience. I volunteered significantly in HS in nursing homes, recycling programs and other such activities as well as my freshmen year of college. But after that nothing. I had significant extra curriculars, namely 20+ hrs a week of varsity cross country and track at a pretty good and well known program for five years, including the post-bacc. year, in addition to working 10 hrs a week part time the post bacc year, but no volunteering.

    I have tried to set up some this summer starting in July when classes are over but most hospitals require you to begin in June or even may for student programs and several others want a 6 month commitment which I can not give. So, if I were to just say forget it, I have a strong application except volunteering , good shadowing and I am a non-trad, would this fly? Would schools completely rule me out becuase I have no volunteer experience as of late? Is it worth it to volunteer for two months (july and august) before I send in my apps?

    Sorry for the length and thanks for any replies!
     
  2. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
    Administrator Physician PhD Faculty Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

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    My school would screen you out, yes. Clinical experience of some type is a must, and significant volunteering is the norm. Lacking both, you almost certainly wouldn't get invited to interview here even if you had a 4.0 GPA and a 40 MCAT. Look at it from the adcom's perspective: with no clinical experience, how will you be able to make a convincing case that you have even the foggiest notion of what you're getting yourself into? Likewise, with a minimal service track record, how do you propose to convince an adcom that you are a good candidate to enter a service profession?

    I suggest that you wait a year to apply; this will give you time to get your ECs and the rest of your app in order. You are young, and there is no need to rush into applying before you are ready to put your best foot forward. Plus, consider that an August MCAT will make you a late applicant, which greatly decreases your opportunities to gain interviews and acceptances, especially at rolling schools. Most schools begin interviewing applicants by September, and many are accepting their top candidates in October. If you aren't even completing your file until October, there may well not be any invites left to give out at some schools by the time your file gets reviewed.
     
  3. flip26

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    Because of similar circumstances, this is precisely what I am doing.
     
  4. Luxian

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    I nearly got shut out of med school for just this reason. Do your volunteering. It doesn't even need to be much, but the schools will expect you to be able to talk about your clinical experiences and it really will help you understand what you're in for!
     
  5. nontrdgsbuiucmd

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    I did get shut out this last year, in speaking with the admissions offices, 1/3 based the decision primarily on mcat (1 sub-par section score) 1/3 based it primarily on extracurriculars primarily (no volunteer clinical/community at the time of application) 1/3 based it largely on timing (secondaries completed mostly mid oct - mid december)

    If you're really set on applying this year, I did ask a number of schools what they thought about my clinical volunteer - nothing during the summer (ochem 1,2, ochem lab, bio 2, bio 2 lab = no free time) and then 30 hours per week for several months, the schools mainly had no problem with that in lieu of the typical 4 hours per week for a longer time period. The hospitals wanted 6 months commitment, I am still volunteering at one 8 months later, and stopped at the other hospital after 150 hours which seemed a fair amount of time to me. Be aware that whatever you list on the aamc primary is the only thing considered by many schools, and they typically will only count hours complete rather than intended future hours.

    So I'd generally agree with Q regarding what admin offices want, they typically will not interview an applicant without volunteer experience, it's just not possible to convince an adcomm that you're very interested in medicine but you've not freed up time to see what it's really like in a clinical setting. Some schools do not consider shadowing as having importance, fyi. But if you can get that experience (maybe 150 hours volunteer in addition to shadowing?) now, you'd have a shot at applying this year, just better odds at acceptance earlier in the cycle next year.
     
  6. Ricegrad05

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    In terms of volunteering experience, I've seen the phrases "clinical experience" and "patient contact" thrown around a lot. What exactly do these mean?

    I've been volunteering for the past few months in a major trauma hospital and have transported patients, stocked supplies, etc. I've seen several surgeries in the OR and have watched some resuscitations in the trauma unit. Would this be considered "clinical experience" with "patient contact"? I'm not allowed to touch any patients because I'm a volunteer and have no medical training. Are there any opportunities that would get me better "clinical experience" with "patient contact"?
     
  7. nontrdgsbuiucmd

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    Sounds like you're in good shape if you're transporting patients & interacting with them to some extent, clinical experience often includes cleaning patient rooms and the like. Clinical experience requires you to be "close enough to smell patients" I'd read somewhere on SDN? Clinical experience does not require putting in an IV or taking blood pressure although someone who does those things would also have clinical experience, unless you're trained/qualified to do these procedures, I would doubt anyone would allow a volunteer to do them. (although I've helped restrain mentally incapacitated patients & helped with holding patients when a broken arm was being set without training).

    In my clinical experiences over several hundred hours, the vast majority of time has been spent doing routine things like transporting patients, stocking rooms, cleaning beds. But these things keep you in the hospital where you can also observe physician/medical staff interaction with patients, and hear what the staff thing/say about more challenging cases. The intent is to get you into a medical setting where you can observe what medical staff really do on a daily basis so that you can make an informed decision about pursuing a medical career. Best of luck!
     
  8. Law2Doc

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    You needn't necessarily "volunteer" for most schools, but having "clinical experience" is a must for getting into med school these days. You should basically consider clinical experience a prereq. By this, schools mean having a position (via volunteering, shadowing, employment) where you get exposed, firsthand to the doctor patient relationship. One interviewer once told me that a good clinical experience is one where you "have a substantial chance of being thrown up on". The point is to let you see what doctors do firsthand, so that you can make an informed career decision. You cannot decide you want to go to med school in vacuum, or based on a few conversations, or based on TV shows, or based on some experience as a patient. You need to get into the hospital and see what folks actually do there. Because the practice of medicine is often very different than people's perceptions of the practice of medicine. So schools insist on you doing this before you apply for a career you otherwise may know nothing about. Medicine is too long and hard a path for you to launch into without really thinking it through, and making an informed decision based on exposure. There is no one right kind of clinical experience, nor is there a specific number of hours. You need this to help you make a smart decision as much as you need this to get into med school. So make it something substantial, a real experience, where you get up and personal with patients and see their interactions with physicians, and see what physicians do in at least some component of their job.
     

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