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Medical Would my time as volunteer clinical researcher be clinical volunteering?

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TheBoneDoctah

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Briefly, my stats are 522 on the MCAT and cGPA is 3.8, sGPA is 3.8 from top LAC. I'm a CA resident, white female. I'm non-trad and will be wrapping up my PhD in a top Immuno department in winter of 2021. I have 8+ years of various teaching and outreach experiences with low-income and underserved high school students as well as 2 years of TA'ing college labs and 1 year graduate level TA'ing. I've also been the direct mentor for multiple first year PhD students. I feel pretty good about my chances at big research schools based on those stats/experiences and I'm very interested in research-friendly specialties like allergy and pulmonology. I've got tons of shadowing experience in interventional pulm/anesthesia/ENT.

My main question is whether my experience as a volunteer clinical researcher will be viewed by adcoms as clinical volunteering. I'll have over 500 hours working with an anesthesia research team on effects of anesthesia on cognition in elderly patients. I spend most of my time doing cognitive testing on patients in pre-op/PACU and on the floor, or in the OR hooking patients up to monitors for spine surgeries. I assist with things, like flipping patients for posterior access or placing oximeters, that feel very much like a nitty gritty clinical experience. It's a longitudinal study so I see how they progress after their spine surgery, both cognitively and in terms of pain/physical function. I'm with the patient when they meet with all of their surgical team before surgery so I have learned a ton about how doctors interact with patients in that environment.

Sorry this is long-winded. After reading through some SDN posts I'm concerned this won't be considered "enough" clinical volunteering since it's for research. I'm in the time crunch of finishing my PhD and combined with the hours I'm putting in to this research study (and the lack of other clinical volunteer opportunities in the Bay Area - everything is completely locked down and I'm so lucky to have had this research opportunity) that I'm afraid I won't be able to boost that area of my app before it comes time to apply. Do you think I should be concerned? If I was still a college student I would just wait until COVID dies down and volunteer in a clinic or shelter, but I'm a senior PhD student cranking out a thesis during a pandemic. Thank you in advance for any insight.
I do see your worry. You are extremely busy and don't have much time for other things.

Usually, as you said, clinical research positions don't check the box for clinical hours. The things that you are doing for your research aren't really what doctors do on a daily, so I personally do not think this would count. I guess the difference is you aren't there helping patients with health care needs, you are just seeing them in a clinical SETTING and doing your research on them. I am curious to see what others think as well.
 

TheBoneDoctah

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I do think some of the things I do while doing this research fulfill the spirit of clinical volunteering. I do things like bring patients pillows/hot blankets in pre-op, help them move on to the operating table, get them water or help adjust to a comfortable position while they're on the floor post-procedure. These things aren't technically part of my duties as researcher but I do my best to be friendly and helpful to patients/nurses/docs and as a result I often find myself doing things that feel less like research. To give a random example, a pulmonologist I shadow a lot had to run to a case and asked me to bring pleurex bottles to a patient in PACU. I'm hoping that, if I write about it in the right way, I can demonstrate that I have spent a lot of time during my clinical research duties listening to and in service of patients. That said, if the consensus here is it's not going to come across as sufficient for the purpose of a med school application then I'll have to scramble to figure out what else I can do.

Also, to be clear, I'm not leaving research for medicine. I fully intend to use the skills I've acquired in my PhD to do clinical research in my future specialty. This clinical research experience has allowed me to work with a group of anesthesiologists who do a great mix of patient care and research and I've gotten to see them in action doing both.
I mean, you do indeed have some “clinical” work there. What do you think @Goro
 

lord999

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No, many (including my school) do not consider bedside research as clinical as the circumstances are artificial if protocol related. If that is the best you can get though, you will have to qualify it, but it's second to the normal experience. This year is going to be very odd, but I think you still run with this as your only. I think you will need one of your LoRs to qualify this as both a planned and a spontaneous encounter if you do.

The other problem that I can see is that certain schools will take the perception that you are from an advantaged background coming from a LAC, so you will not get as much benefit of the doubt as your "twin" who instead of doing clinical research, went to work for that shelter even in your undergraduate whereas someone who came from a disadvantaged background would be thought to make the best of the circumstance.
 
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