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Struggling With Clinical Experience

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by maverick55, May 13, 2014.

  1. maverick55


    Apr 14, 2014
    I graduated from undergrad two years ago and recently started taking the course prerequisites for med school. Getting clinical exposure/shadowing is obviously important, but I've run into a few roadblocks.

    I contacted the local hospital here and inquired about potential shadowing opportunities. The lady in charge of career development at the hospital basically told me that they are no longer allowing this, and the few slots that are open are reserved for residents. She told me to call back "in the winter" which is a polite way of telling me I'm out of luck.

    I then contacted the local nursing home to see if I could do something similar with them. They actually were quite receptive to the idea and said they would allow me to follow someone around the nursing home and rehab area for 5-7 hours a week. Geriatric medicine is one branch of healthcare that does interest me. But here are my concerns:

    Will shadowing in a nursing home be deemed inferior to a hospital setting? Is this considered "good" clinical experience? Also, I might be following a nurse around and not a doctor.

    In addition to shadowing someone in the nursing home, I am also planning to work at the free clinic, but most of the work involved is administrative duties and not necessarily "hands on" healthcare related experience. I am just confused overall on what I should be doing to make myself more competitive and prove my desire to pursue medicine. Any insight or suggestions would be appreciated.
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  3. Plecopotamus

    Plecopotamus 2+ Year Member

    Jun 20, 2012
    If someone told you that "the few slots that are open are reserved for residents", that person did not understand what you were asking for, and you probably need to speak to someone else. Obviously you and a resident are not requesting the same type of experience.

    Pre-meds sometimes work in nursing homes as clinical exposure. However, I would not shadow a nurse in a nursing home to fulfill shadowing "requirements." The purpose of shadowing is to prove that you understand what you're getting into, so you need to follow a physician.
  4. AkGrown84

    AkGrown84 2+ Year Member

    Jun 26, 2013
    Philadelphia, PA
    I'm guessing the person you talked to at the hospital has no clue what you're asking for. There's some type of miscommunication going on there. Regardless, the best way I've found to shadow is to speak with physicians themselves. Explain to your childhood pediatrician, your orthopedist, your _______ (fill in the blank) that you are interested in going to medical school and ask if they would mind you shadowing them. If you don't have anyone like that (recently moved, etc), simply cold call. Seriously.....that is the way I found my DO to shadow. Got on the phone, called whatever DO's I could find, and one immediately agreed to have me come into his clinic and shadow whenever I wanted. It turned out to be my best DO experience, and I really feel like it was one of the integral parts of my interview that landed me an acceptance. He performed OMM exclusively (he's a family doc who has transitioned into specializing in OMM), and my interviewers ate it up.

    Also, I should say that shadowing does not count as "clinical experience". It counts as shadowing. Clinical experience is direct patient contact. We're talking EMT, CNA, MA, Nurse, etc in the formal sense, and things like scribing, volunteering at a homeless shelter/foot care clinic/etc in an informal sense. Personally, I have no medical certificates or designations, so I've been working part time as a scribe the past two years, and it's been a great experience.
  5. ShutUpAndDoIt


    May 11, 2014
    And if the phone doesn't net rewards, dump it, get out the door, and go talk to people face to face. I deal with anything I can this way (even the cable company) and the results are typically much better.
    AkGrown84 likes this.
  6. maverick55


    Apr 14, 2014
    Thanks for the comments. It's given me a lot to consider.

    I have a few physicians in mind and will definitely contact them. How many hours did you shadow the DO, AKgrown? What number should I be aiming for?

    One thing that still confuses me is clinical experience because the definition seems so broad. I could work in a free clinic, but it's mostly administrative paperwork and not really "clinical" in nature. There's the option of spending time in the nursing home but it's not really hands on patient exposure. You mentioned working as a scribe, and that is something I will look into, but what are some other options aside from becoming an EMT or CNA that don't require certification or training?
  7. Jewels86

    Jewels86 2+ Year Member

    Apr 7, 2013
    You can work as a tech in the ER (you may need your EMT-B, which is so easy to get!!) and get your clinical experiences that way. Then, you'll see what we (nurse's) endure, what the physicians endure and will see how patients interact with the medical community (you'll be surprised, depending on your hospital's location).
    AkGrown84 likes this.
  8. StIGMA

    StIGMA Doctor Professor PhD 7+ Year Member

    Jul 6, 2008
    The nursing home experience is not shadowing- you need to spend time in a clinic setting or in a hospital with a physician. I only ever contacted physicians directly (eg- email, which is easier to find at academic institutions). Tell them a little background info about yourself and your future plans, and see if you can come in sometime- probably only for 1 day at first, and maybe only once with that person. Dont expect replies from everyone. Once you get your foot in the door it will be easier to get future experiences, especially if the first person contacts people for you. If you deal with the physician directly you can avoid BS hospital requirements that may exist.
    AkGrown84 likes this.
  9. AkGrown84

    AkGrown84 2+ Year Member

    Jun 26, 2013
    Philadelphia, PA
    I shadowed one day a week for 3-4 hours for a few months....a total of about 30-40 hours with that particular physician. My total shadowing hours was around 200, split between the DO, and my kid's pediatrician (clinic), my OB/Gyn (lots of hours here-clinic, surgery, and delivery/hospital), a pediatric oncologist (hospital and clinic), and pediatric surgeon (surgery and rounds).

    I would say shadow for at least 50 hours. That's enough to give you a good feel for exactly what a physician (or at least that particular physician) does on a day to day basis. I think there's diminishing returns once you hit about 100 hours (obviously, just my opinion). Adcom's will look to see if you have some shadowing hours.....will they really care whether it's 100 or 400?! Probably not. Put a good 50 hours in, make sure you can talk about your experience and what it taught you, and demonstrate this in your essays/secondaries and/or interviews.

    I also agree with Jewels86 with regards to the ER tech position. Many hospitals will train someone for this, and it's a great experience as well. Plus, I think in virtually every hospital in the US, a tech will be paid more than a scribe. Not to knock being a scribe, but the pay really is pretty cruddy. I do it for the experience.

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