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Volunteering/Exposure to Medicine

emtb23

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    Hi,

    I'm currently a freshman premed, and am starting to think about what sort of volunteer experience I want on my application. Go ahead, yell at me for thinking about my application already, but I don't think it's too absurd.

    Here's my situation: I'm an EMT, and have been one since the May after I turned 18. Unlike most premeds who become EMTs, I got interested in medicine the other way around. I had some extra time, got certified, got interested in medicine, and now I want to be a doctor. For now, however, all I want to do is be an EMT.

    I volunteer in my town, and work for a paid service over the summer. I love the work, and don't want to stop doing it. However, I've now heard from a few sources that I should think about other ways to boost the app., like volunteering at a hospital, or shadowing a doctor.

    As for volunteering at a hospital, I really don't see the appeal. My friends who volunteer at hospitals wheel patients around and change bed pans at worst, draw blood at best. Either way, I fail to see how this experience is any more useful in a practical sense than is actual work in the field as an EMT, where I get to interact with patients, and use my own judgment.

    I can imagine how shadowing a doctor is beneficial in terms of preparing one for a career in medicine, though I'm not completely sold on the idea. Do people do it just for a week or so, or for longer? Aren't there HIPPA concerns, anyway?

    My personal opinion is that I love being an EMT, and don't see the need to find some other "activity" just to impress adcoms in the future. However, I'm interested to hear what sorts of activities you're all involved in and what sort of meaningful tasks you get to perform.
     

    tacrum43

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      emtb23 said:
      Hi,

      I'm currently a freshman premed, and am starting to think about what sort of volunteer experience I want on my application. Go ahead, yell at me for thinking about my application already, but I don't think it's too absurd.

      Here's my situation: I'm an EMT, and have been one since the May after I turned 18. Unlike most premeds who become EMTs, I got interested in medicine the other way around. I had some extra time, got certified, got interested in medicine, and now I want to be a doctor. For now, however, all I want to do is be an EMT.

      I volunteer in my town, and work for a paid service over the summer. I love the work, and don't want to stop doing it. However, I've now heard from a few sources that I should think about other ways to boost the app., like volunteering at a hospital, or shadowing a doctor.

      As for volunteering at a hospital, I really don't see the appeal. My friends who volunteer at hospitals wheel patients around and change bed pans at worst, draw blood at best. Either way, I fail to see how this experience is any more useful in a practical sense than is actual work in the field as an EMT, where I get to interact with patients, and use my own judgment.

      I can imagine how shadowing a doctor is beneficial in terms of preparing one for a career in medicine, though I'm not completely sold on the idea. Do people do it just for a week or so, or for longer? Aren't there HIPPA concerns, anyway?

      My personal opinion is that I love being an EMT, and don't see the need to find some other "activity" just to impress adcoms in the future. However, I'm interested to hear what sorts of activities you're all involved in and what sort of meaningful tasks you get to perform.

      Getting your EMT cert and putting it to work in a significant way definitely looks good for your application. However, you probably should spend some time shadowing a physician, otherwise it will be difficult to explain why you want to get your MD (or DO) instead of remaining in EMS.

      The ER would probably be a good place to start. That's what I did, and I did get to help out in a meaningful way on a case by performing chest compressions (I'm EMT certified too, so they said it was okay to just jump in). I'm not sure how it all works with legal concerns though, it never came up. You should shadow the doctor for a lot longer than a week, at least one quarter/semester, especially if you're going to ask them for a letter of recommendation.

      And it is not at all too early to be thinking of your application.
       

      Highclimber

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        Depending on where you are I would recommend trying to become a ED Technician... (essentially and EMT in the ED... though you do sometimes do more menial stuff)... You get the expereince of "shadowing" docs and become part of a teamn which is always fun to talk about in interviews...
         
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        LizzyM

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          Having EMS certification for 3-4 years before applying to med school and showing how EMS led you to consider medicine as a career seems very reasonable to me. I can't imagine a adcom member who would think that a bright college student with EMS certification should justify wanting to go on to medicine rather than staying in EMS (give me a break - EMS + ambition = AMCAS as night follows day).

          Do something else that you love to round out your application. Some examples: sports, performing arts, tutoring, mentoring inner-city kids, writing, visual arts. If you think that you'd like to aim for the top 20 research schools, you should add reserach experience to the mix. Usually this is lab work (a semester plus a summer is typical) but given your EMT work, you might find a ED physician in a medical school affiliated hospital who'd be willing to have you as a volunteer to help with a research project (chart review or prospective data collection on-site). PM me if you want some tips on finding this type of research experience.

          Good luck!
           

          baylormed

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            I think you are doing great so far. Continue doing your EMT work if you really love that. I've never had the chance to get EMT certified, but I worked as a Medical Assistant last summer (20hrs/week), vitaling patients and doing urinalysis, EKG's, vision exams, etc and I found that I really love family medicine and interacting with patients on a day to day basis. I've also shadowed a DO and some MD's and a PA even let me go into consultations with him and allowed me to check some patients myself (he explained to them I was a student and all were nice about it). I did hospital volunteering but stopped after a year because the exposure I was getting was practically non-existent, most of us volunteers were ignored the whole time or asked to do non-related tasks. Now I just need research experience (someone, take me!!!!, haha).
            You're a freshman,so you are doing very well so far, just keep getting good grades and boosting your resume and you should be fine.
             

            shnjb

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              baylormed said:
              I think you are doing great so far. Continue doing your EMT work if you really love that. I've never had the chance to get EMT certified, but I worked as a Medical Assistant last summer (20hrs/week), vitaling patients and doing urinalysis, EKG's, vision exams, etc and I found that I really love family medicine and interacting with patients on a day to day basis. I've also shadowed a DO and some MD's and a PA even let me go into consultations with him and allowed me to check some patients myself (he explained to them I was a student and all were nice about it). I did hospital volunteering but stopped after a year because the exposure I was getting was practically non-existent, most of us volunteers were ignored the whole time or asked to do non-related tasks. Now I just need research experience (someone, take me!!!!, haha).
              You're a freshman,so you are doing very well so far, just keep getting good grades and boosting your resume and you should be fine.


              Any tips on how to get involved with volunteering at a specialized clinic? (such as one that does surgeries or something like that... something other than just the basics)
               

              nikibean

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                Hey,
                Try checking out family practice clinics. I've been an EMT for 6 years now. Things that you can do that are fun and interesting with your certificate:

                1) become a National Ski Patroller (they take Snowboarders, too)

                2) Work in the summertime outdoors doing cool stuff like whitewater guiding, backpack trip leading, etc.

                3) become an EMS instructor - part time. Check out craigslist or ask your local fire dept.

                4) some family planning clinics provide their own phlebotomy training and will take you even though you're not a Medical Assistant. This experience is *vastly* different from being an EMT, but your knowledge will help you out quite a bit. Plus, it's really fun to learn how to draw blood, give shots and counsel people on their health care.

                Just some ideas. Good luck!

                Nic
                 

                baylormed

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                  shnjb said:
                  Any tips on how to get involved with volunteering at a specialized clinic? (such as one that does surgeries or something like that... something other than just the basics)

                  I tried cold-calling myself and it worked. You just have to nag people, or if you have a doctor friend in the family ask them if they can find something for you.
                  I actually got into the first clinic I called, and I asked to talk to the administrator/manager, etc, and I explained them I was a soph/pre-med that wanted to shadow. They said, "well, send us your resume and we will call you back." I got a call the next day and told me they did not usually have shadowing students. I was disappointed. But then he told me they did have a job as a Medical Asst. and if I was willing to get trained I was in. So I accepted. It's been the best experience so far, because I got to work with the patients and the doctors closely.
                  If you are willing to try desperate/crazy things like that, you can probably get something. Just be professional when presenting yourself.
                   

                  nikibean

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                    shnjb said:
                    Any tips on how to get involved with volunteering at a specialized clinic? (such as one that does surgeries or something like that... something other than just the basics)

                    Shnjb,

                    Are you in norcal? Are you near a UC med center? Check out their websites. Also, just go into places. If you're near Berkeley, the berkeley free clinic and the public health clinic are great places to volunteer at. In Davis there are about 5 different ones that you can get involved in. Planned Parenthood is always looking for volunteers, especially guys, and not for escorting/abortion purposes- mostly for filing/organizing and for front office. If you speak Spanish or Mandarin, you could be really really helpful. Go to a clinic that you'd like to check out, ask to speak to the clinic manager, and speak to him/her about volunteering. That works well.
                    Cheers,
                    Nikibean
                    PS To get more than "just the basics" you should look at becoming an OR Tech- try the VA hospitals as well- they're ALWAYS looking for people.
                     

                    emtb23

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                      What is the nature of the technician/assistant work that people keep mentioning? What is the additional training, and how do you go about getting it?

                      One of the reasons why I like being an EMT is that on many calls I am the most medically trained responder, and it's my responsibility to make sure that patient care is good. If I were to volunteer in the ED, even as an EMT/technician/whatever, wouldn't I be the least trained of all the people working there, and thus assigned to the really menial tasks (moving gurneys, etc.)?

                      I like the idea of shadowing a doctor, though an ED sounds much more appealing than a family clinic. If I were to spend a summer shadowing a physician, would I do it once a week? Every day? 8 hours, 4 hours, 2? Also, are these individual agreements with doctors, or do hospitals usually have channels through which all of this is set up?
                       

                      gujuDoc

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                        emtb23 said:
                        Hi,

                        I'm currently a freshman premed, and am starting to think about what sort of volunteer experience I want on my application. Go ahead, yell at me for thinking about my application already, but I don't think it's too absurd.

                        Here's my situation: I'm an EMT, and have been one since the May after I turned 18. Unlike most premeds who become EMTs, I got interested in medicine the other way around. I had some extra time, got certified, got interested in medicine, and now I want to be a doctor. For now, however, all I want to do is be an EMT.

                        I volunteer in my town, and work for a paid service over the summer. I love the work, and don't want to stop doing it. However, I've now heard from a few sources that I should think about other ways to boost the app., like volunteering at a hospital, or shadowing a doctor.

                        As for volunteering at a hospital, I really don't see the appeal. My friends who volunteer at hospitals wheel patients around and change bed pans at worst, draw blood at best. Either way, I fail to see how this experience is any more useful in a practical sense than is actual work in the field as an EMT, where I get to interact with patients, and use my own judgment.

                        I can imagine how shadowing a doctor is beneficial in terms of preparing one for a career in medicine, though I'm not completely sold on the idea. Do people do it just for a week or so, or for longer? Aren't there HIPPA concerns, anyway?

                        My personal opinion is that I love being an EMT, and don't see the need to find some other "activity" just to impress adcoms in the future. However, I'm interested to hear what sorts of activities you're all involved in and what sort of meaningful tasks you get to perform.


                        If you are volunteering as an EMT, I don't think volunteering in a hospital is completely necessary. However, I think you should still do some volunteering in the community. Or if you want to do medical volunteering, you can try a program like Reach Out and Read where you volunteer with little children by reading to children in the waiting rooms. We have a program like that where I go to school and Reach Out and Read per say is a national program that started at Boston University, so may be found at other places too.

                        Other medical volunteering you can do is through the red cross or through international medical misssions. I think you should strongly consider going to another country for a 2-4+ weeks if you can and participating in medical mission trips because they really teach you a lot and you may be able to use EMT skills on a medical mission trip and do more then just wheeling patients around.

                        SHADOWING IS A MUST!!!!!!! That's what our school's affiliated medical school tells us all the time. REL, the adcom director and the other people in charge tell us they really want to see that along with other forms of clinical volunteering and work and community work.

                        If I were you, I'd try to find different kinds of physicians to shadow. You might be able to get an ER doc or surgeon to allow you to observe them since you work as an EMT and might be able to network with some physicians. I'd try to get different kinds of doctors to let you do it. Maybe a few days with different doctors.

                        Or you can shadow a couple of doctors for a long time and develop a one on one relationship with the doctor where they serve as a mentor sometimes.

                        I went through the local VA hospital to find shadowing ops for me and it worked out.

                        If you go to a school that is near or affiliated with a medical school, I'd go to the hospitals affiliated with said school and email various docs in fields you are interested in, if they'd allow you to shadow. This often works out better then private hospitals cuz they have all the HIPPA paperwork and patients feel more ok with it too because of the fact that it is a teaching hospital. VA hospitals are a good place to start.
                         

                        gujuDoc

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                          emtb23 said:
                          What is the nature of the technician/assistant work that people keep mentioning? What is the additional training, and how do you go about getting it?

                          One of the reasons why I like being an EMT is that on many calls I am the most medically trained responder, and it's my responsibility to make sure that patient care is good. If I were to volunteer in the ED, even as an EMT/technician/whatever, wouldn't I be the least trained of all the people working there, and thus assigned to the really menial tasks (moving gurneys, etc.)?

                          I like the idea of shadowing a doctor, though an ED sounds much more appealing than a family clinic. If I were to spend a summer shadowing a physician, would I do it once a week? Every day? 8 hours, 4 hours, 2? Also, are these individual agreements with doctors, or do hospitals usually have channels through which all of this is set up?

                          The amount of which you shadow varies and is dependent on your free time and how much the doctor is willing to let you shadow and their hours of availablity. Some people follow the doc around for the whole day. Others do it for 4 hour blocks or 2 hour blocks once a week. Some do it everyday for a certain time period. If you do a summer program, like one of those summer internships etc. then they have you shadow about 4-5 hours every day for 3-10 weeks depending on the length of the program.

                          I participated in a summer program several years ago in highschool and we shadowed everyday for 3-4 hours. But we rotated through different offices. One day I was at a OBGYN's office, another few days I was with a pediatrician, and then for a few days I was with an orthopedic office.

                          When I shadowed at USF, however, I only went in once a week over several months through phys med and rehab, and neurology.
                           

                          gujuDoc

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                            LizzyM said:
                            Having EMS certification for 3-4 years before applying to med school and showing how EMS led you to consider medicine as a career seems very reasonable to me. I can't imagine a adcom member who would think that a bright college student with EMS certification should justify wanting to go on to medicine rather than staying in EMS (give me a break - EMS + ambition = AMCAS as night follows day).

                            Do something else that you love to round out your application. Some examples: sports, performing arts, tutoring, mentoring inner-city kids, writing, visual arts. If you think that you'd like to aim for the top 20 research schools, you should add reserach experience to the mix. Usually this is lab work (a semester plus a summer is typical) but given your EMT work, you might find a ED physician in a medical school affiliated hospital who'd be willing to have you as a volunteer to help with a research project (chart review or prospective data collection on-site). PM me if you want some tips on finding this type of research experience.

                            Good luck!

                            To the OP, I'd listen to the above advice. What Lizzy has said, is what I meant in my first post when I said do other volunteering besides medical volunteering, if you have the EMT.

                            If you play a sport, dance, or do music, or have some sort of other intrinsic interest, I'd show for those things on the app by discussing it along with the rest of your other stuff. This shows that you are not one dimensional and have other interests out of medicine. It also helps to bring diversity to the classroom. Good luck
                             

                            LizzyM

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                              gujuDoc said:
                              SHADOWING IS A MUST!!!!!!! That's what our school's affiliated medical school tells us all the time. REL, the adcom director and the other people in charge tell us they really want to see that along with other forms of clinical volunteering and work and community work.

                              Shadowing is not a must for the top 20 schools but research is (a few exceptions get made for unusual cases: pro athletes, author of a commercially published book, that sort of thing).

                              Some adcom members at one top 20 school are quite dismissive of shadowing. That is H.S. stuff, take your daughter to work day, in their opinons. They don't expect it on the AMCAS and if the other stuff isn't there (research, leadership, service to the community) they are unimpressed.

                              I'm not an expert on REL's school but perhaps it doesn't put as high a premium on research and the preparation of physician-scientists for careers in academic medicine. All the schools are different and what would make you a good fit at one school may make you a poor prospect at another.
                               

                              p00psicleSTICK

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                                Shadowing is not a must for the top 20 schools but research is (a few exceptions get made for unusual cases: pro athletes, author of a commercially published book, that sort of thing).

                                Some adcom members at one top 20 school are quite dismissive of shadowing. That is H.S. stuff, take your daughter to work day, in their opinons. They don't expect it on the AMCAS and if the other stuff isn't there (research, leadership, service to the community) they are unimpressed.

                                I'm not an expert on REL's school but perhaps it doesn't put as high a premium on research and the preparation of physician-scientists for careers in academic medicine. All the schools are different and what would make you a good fit at one school may make you a poor prospect at another.

                                Wow I was saying, "crap crap crap" to myself after reading guju's reply about shadowing but then I realized why I didn't want to shadow in the first place - what lizzy said. I really never felt the NEED to shadow as much as the URGE to serve people that are in need... Not sure if that's a good excuse but I never really thought shadowing would be a good use of my time.
                                 

                                gujuDoc

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                                  LizzyM said:
                                  Shadowing is not a must for the top 20 schools but research is (a few exceptions get made for unusual cases: pro athletes, author of a commercially published book, that sort of thing).

                                  Some adcom members at one top 20 school are quite dismissive of shadowing. That is H.S. stuff, take your daughter to work day, in their opinons. They don't expect it on the AMCAS and if the other stuff isn't there (research, leadership, service to the community) they are unimpressed.

                                  I'm not an expert on REL's school but perhaps it doesn't put as high a premium on research and the preparation of physician-scientists for careers in academic medicine. All the schools are different and what would make you a good fit at one school may make you a poor prospect at another.


                                  You are correct in what you said about REL's school. We are only now getting bigger in the research world, but still have a long way to go and were originally chartered to be a school meant for training more community physicians and clinicians. So at our school, there is a strong emphasis on clinical stuff over research.

                                  However, I'd agree with you that for a TOP 20- TOP 25, having done research is a big deal.

                                  To the OP:

                                  If you go to a school that has an affiliated med school that is one good place to start looking for undergrad research.

                                  Other good places to get research would be to look through various summer research internship programs etc. For instance, at USF, the H.Lee Moffitt Cancer Research Center has a 10 week summer internship called SPARK, where students do research with top notch researchers and then present what they found at the end.

                                  Also, other places for research may be found through doing undergrad research credits if you are enrolled in a science degree program as your major.
                                   

                                  gujuDoc

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                                    shinenjk said:
                                    Wow I was saying, "crap crap crap" to myself after reading guju's reply about shadowing but then I realized why I didn't want to shadow in the first place - what lizzy said. I really never felt the NEED to shadow as much as the URGE to serve people that are in need... Not sure if that's a good excuse but I never really thought shadowing would be a good use of my time.


                                    I'm sure you'll be fine without shadowing. Your stats are nice and your profile is nice overall. And obviously if you were not fine, you'd not have had 2 interviews. Don't sweat it.

                                    OP:

                                    I'd do a little shadowing, but also research and other non medicallly, non scientific stuff as well. But don't do toooooo much that you burden yourself. Do only what you are truly passionate about. For instance, don't join a student organization just for the sake of doing so.

                                    For instance, with leadership you can earn it through the workplace or through other volunteering activities you've done. or you can show leadership in side projects you've organized.
                                     

                                    gujuDoc

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                                      Lizzy,

                                      To clarify my post a bit...... I wasn't saying that the other stuff isn't a must.

                                      All the things you listed, except for research at lower tier schools, is a must too. Research is an iffy issue and can go either way depending on what school. If it is a top 20-25 school, it is a must because those schools are schools very big into research and hence the reason behind their rankings. They are focused towards producing research physicians as shown through the curricula at places like Yale, Mayo, HMS, and so forth with their research components within the program.

                                      Schools like many lower ranked state schools, often are focused on producing clinicians and community physicians to increase out put of doctors in a particular area. As an example, look at FSU COM. FSU was built on the premise of training more rural physicians in northern Florida. Likewise, some schools in the bordering states have an intense focus on primary care and hence look for students who have done tons of community work.

                                      To the OP:

                                      The most current version of the Medical School Admissions Requirement book (MSAR) is really good to get because it shows the breakdown of accepted applicants in terms of the percentage who did various types of extracurricular activities. it also gives abundant info on the focus of the school and the number of in state vs. out of state, as well as numerical averages, etc.

                                      When applying, think about what it is you want to do within medicine, in the sense of whether your focus is to become a research physician or to become a primary care physician in a rural area, etc. Think about what schools you might want to apply to and look at their websites. That will give you a good idea about what kinds of things you might want to do.
                                       
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