Really confused about volunteering and shadowing opportunities

Jan 5, 2011
11
0
Status
Pre-Pharmacy
Hi

So I am a senior who recently switched from pre-pharm to pre-medical. I currently have no clinical or non-clinical volunteering experience, and only have about 30 volunteer hours in a pharmacy. I also had a couple of months of pharmacy tech experience. I never really did any sort of volunteering after high school as I focused on school and work during college, and seeing how I wanted to be a pharmacist, I figured that a little tech experience along with good LORs and GPA and PCAT score would be enough to get me accepted to pharmacy school. But now, seeing how I want to get into medical school, my lack of hours will not cut it.

I will be applying for the Fall 2015 cycle, so over the next year I am hoping to get a lot of exposure and volunteering experience. However, I am confused. I searched the forms and people mention non-clinical and clinical volunteer experience and how they are both important. Yet, another person mentioned how clinical exposure or work are both good, and having non-clinical is a bonus. Currently, I volunteer in a hospital pharmacy, and basically, they have me doing nothing but work no one wants to do, and I have 0 patient or physician contact (EDIT: This sort of changed, see post 8) :(. Obviously, this means that I cannot count this as clinical work, and since I am switching to pre-med, I want to get out of the pharmacy as I hate how they just have me stocking shelves and stuffing envelopes. :mad::mad::mad:

Soon I will be shadowing a PA. From there, I am hoping to shadow a podiatrist, as well as an MD. I do not know how I am going to shadow an MD, but I am hoping that I can get acquainted through the PA I will be shadowing. With all those activities, I feel that I will not only meet shadowing requirements for admissions, but I will also have a lot of exposure so I can be 100% sure that I want to do what I see.

Now, to my questions. After I leave the pharmacy and begin shadowing the PA, if I like what I see, and if I am able to get some sort of paid medical position (that actually deals with patients and physicians), should I even bother with clinical volunteering? My plan is to somehow obtain some sort of paid medical position so that I have clinical work experience over the next year, and then look into non-clinical volunteering. Specifically, I would like to volunteer in an animal shelter. I would not mind doing some sort of clinical volunteering, but what I am afraid of is that it will be like what I do now, where I get a position that seems like I will have patient interaction, but instead they just use me to do the jobs no one wants to do). Would this adversely affect me if I only have non-clinical volunteering (and only paid clinical experience)? Or should I still look into "clinical" volunteering (and also, any advice on how to get clinical volunteering experience as a senior)?
 
Last edited:
Mar 2, 2012
147
1
It sure feels like the north pole...
Status
Medical Student
Yes, a lot of clinical volunteering is crap work. There are meaningful opportunities out there, but they're usually hard to get. Honestly, you may just have to suck it up and do the restocking/cleaning/grunt work. However, if you can get paid clinical experience, wonderful, skip the clinical volunteer, but I would make sure that you have some physician shadowing in addition to that. I think that medical schools want to be sure that you know what you're getting into. Shadowing a PA and a podiatrist is good, because then you can tell the admissions committees that you've considered other health care related positions and why you didn't want to do those jobs, but wanted to become an MD instead.

As far as non-clinical volunteering, I would do some, but find something that interests you or is meaningful. It shows that you are a generous person and that you have interests outside of the medical profession.

Clinical volunteering: search local hospital websites for the volunteer department and call them up to ask about volunteer opportunities--most places have Emergency Room volunteers, google free or low-income clinics in your area and call them up, become a scribe, ask your college's service learning center (most have someone that organizes volunteer opportunities).

Best of luck!
 

Aerus

Elemental Alchemist
7+ Year Member
Apr 21, 2012
3,222
2,368
Status
Medical Student
You really just want clinical exposure. Whether this is a job or volunteering will help your application in different ways. A job requires more commitment, where you can't fool around and do nothing. You must be responsible to maintain one. Volunteering, on the other hand, shows altruism and a desire to give back to the community.

If you really want to pursue a clinical job and do nonclinical volunteering, that would be a really good combination of both work experience and altruism. For the nonclinical volunteering, do whatever you like and can explain enthusiastically about. An animal shelter would be excellent, if you love animals.

Best of luck with everything and your eventual cycle. ;)
 
OP
M
Jan 5, 2011
11
0
Status
Pre-Pharmacy
Yes, a lot of clinical volunteering is crap work. There are meaningful opportunities out there, but they're usually hard to get. Honestly, you may just have to suck it up and do the restocking/cleaning/grunt work. However, if you can get paid clinical experience, wonderful, skip the clinical volunteer, but I would make sure that you have some physician shadowing in addition to that. I think that medical schools want to be sure that you know what you're getting into. Shadowing a PA and a podiatrist is good, because then you can tell the admissions committees that you've considered other health care related positions and why you didn't want to do those jobs, but wanted to become an MD instead.
Are you implying that the volunteering I do now in the pharmacy is volunteering? I was under the impression that it is not clinical as I do not have interaction with patients or doctors (just the pharmacists). Even if it does count, I would still like to leave and get some sort of position in which I actually can work with patients or doctors. I am in a hospital now, and I talked to my coordinator, but they have no "clinical" positions available; the only thing she mentioned that they have open is a patient companion in the ER, but I want to get some sort of actual clinical work with doctors in addition to patients, and that position would not allow me to do so.

As far as non-clinical volunteering, I would do some, but find something that interests you or is meaningful. It shows that you are a generous person and that you have interests outside of the medical profession.

Clinical volunteering: search local hospital websites for the volunteer department and call them up to ask about volunteer opportunities--most places have Emergency Room volunteers, google free or low-income clinics in your area and call them up, become a scribe, ask your college's service learning center (most have someone that organizes volunteer opportunities).

Best of luck!
Regarding a scribe, this is something that I am strongly considering. My college adviser also recommended this, but the only reason why I am hesitant is because I work full time during the summer, and although the work I do has nothing to do with healthcare, I need the money. If I became a scribe, I believe it would have to be a paid position (I am unaware of any volunteering scribes in my area), and that means I could not work full time during the summer. However, if I were to go this route and become a scribe, seeing how it involves patient and doctor interaction, this means that I would not have to worry about clinical volunteering, correct? I could then spend some of my free time doing non-clinical volunteering, and I probably would not be at a disadvantage when applying to medical schools because I have clinical experience, correct?
 
OP
M
Jan 5, 2011
11
0
Status
Pre-Pharmacy
You really just want clinical exposure. Whether this is a job or volunteering will help your application in different ways. A job requires more commitment, where you can't fool around and do nothing. You must be responsible to maintain one. Volunteering, on the other hand, shows altruism and a desire to give back to the community.

If you really want to pursue a clinical job and do nonclinical volunteering, that would be a really good combination of both work experience and altruism. For the nonclinical volunteering, do whatever you like and can explain enthusiastically about. An animal shelter would be excellent, if you love animals.

Best of luck with everything and your eventual cycle. ;)
I just commented to the first reply about the bolded, but I think you basically answered my question. Just to clarify, if I were to become a paid medical scribe (or some sort of clinical worker in which I am paid), I do not have to really worry about clinical volunteering (as I will still have experience), and instead I could focus time and energy on non-clinical volunteering? I mean I guess I just feel that adcoms will drill me for not having clinical volunteer experience. And I am also afraid that if I do instead do non-clinical volunteering, and I am unable to obtain a paid clinical position, I won't have any clinical experience and I will be at an extreme disadvantage.
 

sunflower18

Master of Naps
7+ Year Member
Oct 23, 2011
3,391
3,822
Status
Medical Student
I just commented to the first reply about the bolded, but I think you basically answered my question. Just to clarify, if I were to become a paid medical scribe (or some sort of clinical worker in which I am paid), I do not have to really worry about clinical volunteering (as I will still have experience), and instead I could focus time and energy on non-clinical volunteering? I mean I guess I just feel that adcoms will drill me for not having clinical volunteer experience. And I am also afraid that if I do instead do non-clinical volunteering, and I am unable to obtain a paid clinical position, I won't have any clinical experience and I will be at an extreme disadvantage.
My recommendation: start clinical volunteering. If you land a paid clinical job, then that's great -- switch to that, and drop the clinical volunteering.

If you become a scribe, you are almost guaranteed to not be able to work full time in the summers. However, paid scribe positions will provide income, so it's not like you are trading in everything for nothing.

Best of luck! I just got hired as a scribe and am starting training this week, so I'm pretty excited :) If you have any questions, feel free to PM me and I can inform you a little bit about the process.
 
Feb 8, 2013
5
0
Status
My recommendation: start clinical volunteering. If you land a paid clinical job, then that's great -- switch to that, and drop the clinical volunteering.

If you become a scribe, you are almost guaranteed to not be able to work full time in the summers. However, paid scribe positions will provide income, so it's not like you are trading in everything for nothing.

Best of luck! I just got hired as a scribe and am starting training this week, so I'm pretty excited :) If you have any questions, feel free to PM me and I can inform you a little bit about the process.
If you are willing to work and dedicate yourself to up your application I'd say continue your summer job and apply for Scribe positions. I know every case is different but I'm currently a grad student. Along with my daily research usually 8am-5pm (including meetings with PI and Presentations), teaching Anatomy Labs two days a week, and shadowing an Internal Medicine Doc; I'm an ER scribe working 2-3 shifts a week. It's really beneficial but I wouldn't let that be the only clinical experience you gain before applying. I've talked with advisors from several schools and they said paid clinical experience is worth more than volunteer based ones, how much more? Who knows but luckily I have experience with MDs, DOs, PAs, and Nurses. So simply, just work haha.
 
OP
M
Jan 5, 2011
11
0
Status
Pre-Pharmacy
If you are willing to work and dedicate yourself to up your application I'd say continue your summer job and apply for Scribe positions. I know every case is different but I'm currently a grad student. Along with my daily research usually 8am-5pm (including meetings with PI and Presentations), teaching Anatomy Labs two days a week, and shadowing an Internal Medicine Doc; I'm an ER scribe working 2-3 shifts a week. It's really beneficial but I wouldn't let that be the only clinical experience you gain before applying. I've talked with advisors from several schools and they said paid clinical experience is worth more than volunteer based ones, how much more? Who knows but luckily I have experience with MDs, DOs, PAs, and Nurses. So simply, just work haha.
See the only problem with working my summer job and scribe positions is that my summer job is full time (I also did not specify the hours, but its 8:30-4:30 M-F). This means that I cannot do both jobs, and since I need the money for school, the roughly guaranteed $400 I make a week at my summer job helps tremendously. If I was a scribe over the summer, it would probably only be part time, and I would make a lot less. However, the problem is I just know medical schools will look down on my summer job and ask why did I not have a clinical job/experience instead. Even if they don't, I will be at a disadvantage compared to other students who have had a summer of clinical experience. This is why I was interested in just clinical volunteering, as I was hoping that it would "take care of" my clinical experience portion of the application and (most likely) allow me to still work full time during the summer. Then I can just get shadowing experience to obviously take care of the shadowing portion.

However, even with all the above, I am really beginning to contemplate becoming a scribe and just taking out more loans for school.

In addition, now I have a problem. I contacted both my family doctor and the PA my adviser recommended. Well, even though the PA said he would be glad to have me shadow, he never contacted me back. So I then went to see my family doctor, but he also basically said no and to look into hospitals (which I have already received one rejection from the one I currently volunteer at). This really sucks, because now I am back to square one, and my plan that I originally posted is ruined.

So once again, I am looking for advice.

First, could someone please tell me if what I do in the pharmacy counts as clinical experience?? I still have no clear answer. I had a task the other day where I called doctor's offices, so I guess I have direct contact with both physicians and pharmacists (although not really with patients unless they ask a question while I'm on the floor, like where is product X). Since both clinical experience and shadowing are essentially required for admission, you can understand why I hope the pharmacy volunteering counts as clinical, because if it does, I won't have to look elsewhere for volunteering experience and I would not have to quit my much needed full time summer job.

Second, I searched the forum and a few threads from a couple years ago all seemed to agree that calling up doctors is an acceptable way to find someone to shadow. Is this still the general consensus here? I live like a block away from a walk in clinic, and nearby a bunch of other offices (many different specialties including GPs), so my plan was to just call them and see if I am lucky enough to have one of them accept me.


Once again, thanks to everyone who posted.
 
Feb 19, 2013
30
0
Arkansas
Status
Pre-Medical
Everyone has a different combination of experiences. There is not a "right combination" or "magical recipe" of non-clinical to clinical. Like what everyone else has said, do a significant amount of non-clinical volunteering in something that you care about or are interested in. It is also good to do different ones to give you different experiences. Don't just do the animal shelter or the homeless shelter and nothing else, imo. Do a variety of things for enough time to show you have committed to them. Shadowing is a really good thing to do, and almost necessary since everyone has it. Shadowing was my only clinical exposure. I shadowed 6 different physicians and got at least 24 hours with each (two I got over 40 hours). I also had some PT shadowing thrown in there because originally thats what I was going to do. The rest of my volunteering was non-clinical. I got accepted to 3 schools and interviews at 9 out of the 9 I applied to (I turned down 5 II). It comes down to getting experiences. Things you can sincerely talk about in your interviews/PS. But your experiences need to be around people, because that is what medicine is about- people. I've been where you are, stressing/obsessing about having that ideal application. Everyone has an ideal application. BE DIFFERENT! Make yourself standout. Build relationships with physicians. Introduce yourself, give a firm handshake and ask if you can shadow them for a month.
 
OP
M
Jan 5, 2011
11
0
Status
Pre-Pharmacy
Everyone has a different combination of experiences. There is not a "right combination" or "magical recipe" of non-clinical to clinical. Like what everyone else has said, do a significant amount of non-clinical volunteering in something that you care about or are interested in. It is also good to do different ones to give you different experiences. Don't just do the animal shelter or the homeless shelter and nothing else, imo. Do a variety of things for enough time to show you have committed to them. Shadowing is a really good thing to do, and almost necessary since everyone has it. Shadowing was my only clinical exposure. I shadowed 6 different physicians and got at least 24 hours with each (two I got over 40 hours). I also had some PT shadowing thrown in there because originally thats what I was going to do. The rest of my volunteering was non-clinical. I got accepted to 3 schools and interviews at 9 out of the 9 I applied to (I turned down 5 II). It comes down to getting experiences. Things you can sincerely talk about in your interviews/PS. But your experiences need to be around people, because that is what medicine is about- people. I've been where you are, stressing/obsessing about having that ideal application. Everyone has an ideal application. BE DIFFERENT! Make yourself standout. Build relationships with physicians. Introduce yourself, give a firm handshake and ask if you can shadow them for a month.
Thanks for the advice man. What you said that I bolded is the main problem. No matter what, I keep on viewing this as a numbers game, and I guess I just feel that I absolutely MUST have a couple hundred hours of clinical experience and a hundred hours or so of shadowing doctors. Im paranoid because although I have a good GPA, I did not take the MCAT yet and my ECs/clinical experience/shadowing/volunteering are so weak and virtually nonexistent that even if I did well on the MCAT (and there is no way to know) I still doubt I would get accepted. This is why I stress about this so much, because even if I do well on the MCAT, I still will likely not get accepted somewhere and things will get complicated quick (and since I switched to an emphasis on getting into medical school instead of pharmacy school my senior year, I feel like I'm way behind too).

But anyways, sometime soon I will be calling doctors offices and ask if I can shadow. No matter what, I will keep on trying and I hope I will find something eventually. If/when I do, I feel that I am confident enough to build a solid relationship with any doctor. However, the volunteering is a different story. As you said, volunteering should be something that you are committed to, not just doing to get hours. The problem for me is, if adcoms view my pharmacy volunteering as clinical, then I feel like I would be doing myself a disservice as it would be a huge plus to have a couple hundred clinical volunteer hours completed over a long term period. Yet, I would prefer to do something I actually enjoy.

You said that you got acceptances to schools with shadowing being your only clinical experience, so may I ask what your other stats were like (e.g. GPA, MCAT, other ECs)? If it would still allow me to have a good chance at medical school, I would love to be able to leave the pharmacy and just get a couple volunteering positions that I would actually look forward to doing (which would likely be non-clinical since I am under the impression that clinical positions either (i) are difficult to find or (ii) suck) and then just use the shadowing as my clinical experience.

Also I have no problem doing non-clinical volunteering with people, its just as I said in my first post, I was under the assumption that the pharmacy volunteering I was doing now would somehow involve patients (like when I worked as a tech), but really I only deal with doctors and pharmacists and the occasional patient asking where something is. Plus half the stuff they have me do is office work that they should be paying someone for.
 
Feb 8, 2013
5
0
Status
See the only problem with working my summer job and scribe positions is that my summer job is full time (I also did not specify the hours, but its 8:30-4:30 M-F). This means that I cannot do both jobs, and since I need the money for school, the roughly guaranteed $400 I make a week at my summer job helps tremendously. If I was a scribe over the summer, it would probably only be part time, and I would make a lot less. However, the problem is I just know medical schools will look down on my summer job and ask why did I not have a clinical job/experience instead. Even if they don't, I will be at a disadvantage compared to other students who have had a summer of clinical experience. This is why I was interested in just clinical volunteering, as I was hoping that it would "take care of" my clinical experience portion of the application and (most likely) allow me to still work full time during the summer. Then I can just get shadowing experience to obviously take care of the shadowing portion.

However, even with all the above, I am really beginning to contemplate becoming a scribe and just taking out more loans for school.

In addition, now I have a problem. I contacted both my family doctor and the PA my adviser recommended. Well, even though the PA said he would be glad to have me shadow, he never contacted me back. So I then went to see my family doctor, but he also basically said no and to look into hospitals (which I have already received one rejection from the one I currently volunteer at). This really sucks, because now I am back to square one, and my plan that I originally posted is ruined.

So once again, I am looking for advice.

First, could someone please tell me if what I do in the pharmacy counts as clinical experience?? I still have no clear answer. I had a task the other day where I called doctor's offices, so I guess I have direct contact with both physicians and pharmacists (although not really with patients unless they ask a question while I'm on the floor, like where is product X). Since both clinical experience and shadowing are essentially required for admission, you can understand why I hope the pharmacy volunteering counts as clinical, because if it does, I won't have to look elsewhere for volunteering experience and I would not have to quit my much needed full time summer job.

Second, I searched the forum and a few threads from a couple years ago all seemed to agree that calling up doctors is an acceptable way to find someone to shadow. Is this still the general consensus here? I live like a block away from a walk in clinic, and nearby a bunch of other offices (many different specialties including GPs), so my plan was to just call them and see if I am lucky enough to have one of them accept me.


Once again, thanks to everyone who posted.
That sounds pretty rough. I would say continue trying to get in where ever you can. Like someone else mentioned, there isn't a "right" way to get clinical experience. But just make sure the school(s) that you are applying to will accept those as formal clinical experiences. I know Utah counts clinical experience and shadowing as two different areas. And clinical experience has to be with MD/DO nothing else. Not even PA or Podiatrists. So work your application around the schools you are applying to.

My application is a little bit more diverse than most people because I plan on applying to a variety of schools that all have different amounts of hours for clinical, shadowing, volunteer, research and GPA. I am luckily enough to get to know the Internist I shadow prior to asking her (I volunteered to teach her school kids and help at her school next to her practice). And now I get to work with 7 Emergency Medicine docs in the ER. All with different backgrounds and residency training in other fields. I also walked dogs at the shelter so extend my volunteer passed humans haha. So just keep trucking along.