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Should I take extra time off to get more clinical experience?

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HH8911

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Hi everyone- thanks for reading. Just wanted some advice/thoughts about my situation.

I am graduating in December, with an estimated cGPA of 3.7 and sGPA of 3.65. I have not taken the MCAT yet, and while I was initially going to apply in June of 2012 (giving me about six months to get the MCAT and committee letter process taken care of) I am not sure that I will be ready by that point.

My main concern is my lack of extracurriculars/clinical experience, due to working 20-30 hours a week on average to help pay for school. I have:
-about 60 hours doing patient transport at the university hospital (which was a really cool experience)
-I have shadowed two doctors in public health, I would definitely like to get some more shadowing under my belt
-about 20 hours in hospice visiting patients (the time commitment was only about an hour a week)
-135 hours of bench research in radiology- it was an internship, no pubs or anything like that
-60 hours of bench research as a volunteer in dermatology
- and then just random volunteer experience, like I was an intern for a semester at a wildlife sanctuary, wrote for the school newspaper my first semester of freshman year, and did a service learning project at the local no-kill animal shelter.

I just don't know that six months (Jan-June 2012) will be enough time to really get all the loose ends tied up, take the MCAT, get more clinical experience and shadowing, write my personal statement, etc. I have toyed around with doing CNA/EMT/MA/Phlebotomy or something along those lines as well in my time off. Would it be beneficial to take an extra year off, and apply in June 2013 instead? I know it's quite a bit of time off but it might be worth it to really beef up my application, and get more experience for my personal knowledge and benefit as well. If I do that, is taking the MCAT pretty soon (like sometime this summer so everything from pre-reqs is still somewhat fresh) a good idea? Thoughts?

Thanks for reading! :)
 

PMPMD

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Hi everyone- thanks for reading. Just wanted some advice/thoughts about my situation.

I am graduating in December, with an estimated cGPA of 3.7 and sGPA of 3.65. I have not taken the MCAT yet, and while I was initially going to apply in June of 2012 (giving me about six months to get the MCAT and committee letter process taken care of) I am not sure that I will be ready by that point.

My main concern is my lack of extracurriculars/clinical experience, due to working 20-30 hours a week on average to help pay for school. I have:
-about 60 hours doing patient transport at the university hospital (which was a really cool experience)
-I have shadowed two doctors in public health, I would definitely like to get some more shadowing under my belt
-about 20 hours in hospice visiting patients (the time commitment was only about an hour a week)
-135 hours of bench research in radiology- it was an internship, no pubs or anything like that
-60 hours of bench research as a volunteer in dermatology
- and then just random volunteer experience, like I was an intern for a semester at a wildlife sanctuary, wrote for the school newspaper my first semester of freshman year, and did a service learning project at the local no-kill animal shelter.

I just don't know that six months (Jan-June 2012) will be enough time to really get all the loose ends tied up, take the MCAT, get more clinical experience and shadowing, write my personal statement, etc. I have toyed around with doing CNA/EMT/MA/Phlebotomy or something along those lines as well in my time off. Would it be beneficial to take an extra year off, and apply in June 2013 instead? I know it's quite a bit of time off but it might be worth it to really beef up my application, and get more experience for my personal knowledge and benefit as well. If I do that, is taking the MCAT pretty soon (like sometime this summer so everything from pre-reqs is still somewhat fresh) a good idea? Thoughts?

Thanks for reading! :)

I would not take an extra year to get more clinical EC time. I think your app looks good so far. Med school apps will include work experience, and take into consideration the fact that you've been working to pay your way. 20-30h/wk is no joke!
 
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With what you have already, I think it's quite doable to get your experiences up to snuff for general purposes by application time with 3-4 hours of clinical volunteering per week. Alternatively, if you aspire to attending a top research school, an extra year of solid research and leadership would serve you well.

How many shadowing hours do you have so far? Were the Public Health physicians seeing patients in a clinic?

In the end, when to apply is a personal decision, though. There is no rush. Many appreciate having some extra time off to recharge their academic batteries, do some traveling, pay off some debt, try an amazing learning experience, and spend time with friends and family. If you decide to wait until June 2013, I think that taking the MCAT this year, while the memories of the prerequisites are the freshest, is a great idea.
 

194342

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Mirroring what others said, if you get a 31+ you will likely get interviews. I would absolutley NOT take off more time just for more volunteer or clinical experience. However, if you want to take it off to do somthing fun or interesting, then do it. Don't do it for clinical experience. You have more than enough.
 

HH8911

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With what you have already, I think it's quite doable to get your experiences up to snuff for general purposes by application time with 3-4 hours of clinical volunteering per week. Alternatively, if you aspire to attending a top research school, an extra year of solid research and leadership would serve you well.

How many shadowing hours do you have so far? Were the Public Health physicians seeing patients in a clinic?

In the end, when to apply is a personal decision, though. There is no rush. Many appreciate having some extra time off to recharge their academic batteries, do some traveling, pay off some debt, try an amazing learning experience, and spend time with friends and family. If you decide to wait until June 2013, I think that taking the MCAT this year, while the memories of the prerequisites are the freshest, is a great idea.

I really have no interest in a top research school, I am perfectly fine at my state school (Colorado)! One of the public health physicians was seeing patients, and the other it was more of an interview style in her office where I asked her questions and got to know her a bit. Regardless of whether I apply this year or next, I plan on jumping into at least 3-4 hours a week of volunteering or something after the new year.

Thank you all for the advice! I figured the clinical experience would be a weakness in my app. I see all these people with hundreds or thousands of hours, and it is kind of intimidating! I do realize that this is SDN though and we are all kind of overachievers ;) I know I don't have a ton of hours, but I met some really inspirational people in the time I was at the hospital and hospice.

I suppose I could always take an April MCAT, start studying in January, get scores back in May and decide then if I want to go for it in June or wait. Meanwhile, I'd still be keeping up with the volunteering and everything. Hmmmm....
 
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1) I am perfectly fine at my state school (Colorado)!

2) One of the public health physicians was seeing patients, and the other it was more of an interview style in her office where I asked her questions and got to know her a bit.

3) Regardless of whether I apply this year or next, I plan on jumping into at least 3-4 hours a week of volunteering or something after the new year.
1) In past years, Colorado had a dean that felt 500 hours of patient care experience was preferable. They have a new dean now, and I haven't heard that the "policy" had changed, but only that there was no longer a statement of preference. You might consider calling the admissions office to see how they feel about this now. If you do, let us know the response.

2) It's the physician-patient interaction that is the most important to witness, though some meetings, surgery in the OR, or hospital rounds can also give you an idea of what a doc's life is like. I find that the average applicant has about 50 hours total, split among a few specialties, of which one (I feel) should be in primary care.

3) Sounds good.
 

music2doc

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1) In past years, Colorado had a dean that felt 500 hours of patient care experience was preferable. They have a new dean now, and I haven't heard that the "policy" had changed, but only that there was no longer a statement of preference. You might consider calling the admissions office to see how they feel about this now. If you do, let us know the response.

2) It's the physician-patient interaction that is the most important to witness, though some meetings, surgery in the OR, or hospital rounds can also give you an idea of what a doc's life is like. I find that the average applicant has about 50 hours total, split among a few specialties, of which one (I feel) should be in primary care.

3) Sounds good.

I don't think the "Sondheimer Rule" is in effect anymore, although I know they still strongly encourage non-trads. It's fairly uncommon to get into Colorado on the first try right out of college. Something like 25-30% of their class each year is made up of reapplicants and I recall a stat from awhile back that showed somewhere around 85% of matriculants had a healthcare license of some sort (EMT, CNA, phlebotomy, etc.).

Someone should probably contact Ms. Patel or Dr. Winn and actually ask, though....
 

HH8911

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Someone should probably contact Ms. Patel or Dr. Winn and actually ask, though....

1) In past years, Colorado had a dean that felt 500 hours of patient care experience was preferable. They have a new dean now, and I haven't heard that the "policy" had changed, but only that there was no longer a statement of preference. You might consider calling the admissions office to see how they feel about this now. If you do, let us know the response.

I spoke with the Colorado admissions office today, they said "we recommend about 500 hours of clinical experience within the medical field." So that is slightly disheartening, just because there's no way I could pull that off in six months while studying for the MCAT (registered to take it in April) and working. I don't think trying to take a CNA/EMT/Phleb class around that would be a good idea...

Now I feel like I am a great disadvantage either way. I can apply this year to my state school with clinical experience way under the "suggested" aka pretty much required min, or apply out of state, where my chances are probably smaller anyway due to being OOS. Is this correct?

I have no problem going out of state, but if this 500 hours thing is pretty generic, I may have to wait the extra year anyway!
 
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1) I spoke with the Colorado admissions office today, they said "we recommend about 500 hours of clinical experience within the medical field." So that is slightly disheartening, just because there's no way I could pull that off in six months while studying for the MCAT (registered to take it in April) and working. I don't think trying to take a CNA/EMT/Phleb class around that would be a good idea...

2) Now I feel like I am a great disadvantage either way. I can apply this year to my state school with clinical experience way under the "suggested" aka pretty much required min, or apply out of state, where my chances are probably smaller anyway due to being OOS. Is this correct?

I have no problem going out of state, but if this 500 hours thing is pretty generic, I may have to wait the extra year anyway!
1) Thanks for calling Colorado to get the current recommendations.

2) Your chances out of state can't be predicted without the MCAT score. But your GPAs are promising.

Is the chance of getting cheaper in-state tuition worth waiting an extra year for so you can acquire the necessary ECs? Weren't you leaning in the direction of taking your time, anyway?
 

HH8911

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1) Thanks for calling Colorado to get the current recommendations.

2) Your chances out of state can't be predicted without the MCAT score. But your GPAs are promising.

Is the chance of getting cheaper in-state tuition worth waiting an extra year for so you can acquire the necessary ECs? Weren't you leaning in the direction of taking your time, anyway?

That extra year might be worth it to save the money. I do have undergrad debt hanging over my head too. I was leaning toward taking my time, but only because I thought my clinical experience would be insufficient at my state school (which seems to be accurate). However, like you said, it depends on the MCAT. I'm taking it April 5 so if it happens to be stellar (hopefully!) I could still apply OOS this coming cycle. The most recent stats I have --from this summer- about Colorado is that about 700 in state applied in 2010 with 50% receiving interviews, and 70% of those offered acceptances (all percentages approximate, don't quote me on that exactly) However a lack of clinical experience might be a problem enough to not even get an interview.
 

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I got in with probably 60 hours of volunteering in an ER, something like 300 hours at a children's hospital (though I wouldn't call that clinical), and no official shadowing. Don't worry about it. Not only do you have more than enough, but the fact that you work 20-30 hours a week, have done what you've done, and have balanced it all with school will ensure that you'll be fine. Anything more will only have diminishing returns. Focus on the MCAT, raise your GPA as much as possible, and forget the rest.
 

music2doc

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Wow, at this rate a pre-Med student will soon need as many clinical hours as a pre-PA student.

...Is that a bad thing? (Ok... so 1000+ is a bit ridiculous, but I don't think 500 is really that extreme.... It shows you have actually seen some things and have a good idea of what healthcare is like.)

How many hours do pre-PA students usually need?

Most programs require 1000-8000... (so up to 4 years' full time).
 
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