Clinical experience is an important facet of your application. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), “admissions committees look to see that your application conveys evidence of empathy, service orientation, ethical responsibility to self and others, an awareness of what a career as a practicing physician entails, as well as other characteristics and strengths.”
You should approach gaining clinical experience with intentionality. Rather than pursuing opportunities in hopes of fulfilling a “requirement,” you should commit to a cause that you are sincerely interested in instead of doing a number of “one-off” events.
Shadowing Healthcare Professionals
Shadowing a healthcare professional provides an opportunity to discover what the day-to-day life in health professions is like and to gain exposure to different specialties and settings. Medical schools highly value shadowing experience. Here are a few short tips:
- Approach health professionals you already know first.
- Ask fellow pre-health students if they know someone you can shadow.
- Call or email physicians at clinics, private practices or hospitals in the area.
- Briefly introduce yourself and your goals.
- Arrange a shadowing time or recurring schedule that works for both of you.
- Be prepared to get turned down, but keep asking other health professionals.
Working with Patients
It is often difficult to find opportunities that allow people who lack medical training to participate in medical procedures. However, there are several options at GW and in the Washington, D.C., area that require minimal training beforehand or incorporate training into the program. The AAMC also has a list of five ways to gain experience without shadowing.
Emergency Health Services Courses
There are a number of courses available to undergraduates through GW's School of Medicine & Health Sciences that provide excellent opportunities to interact with patients and physicians.
- Emergency Medical Tech-Basic (EHS 1040) and EMT Basic Lab (EHS 1041)
- Theory and Practice of Research in a Clinical Setting (EHS 2107)
- Emergency Medicine Clinical Scribe (EHS 2108)
- Emergency Department Critical Assessment and Procedures (EHS 2110)
GW Emergency Medical Response Group (EMeRG)
EMeRG provides free, around-the-clock basic life support to the GW community and its visitors during the academic year. EMeRG members are current students with EMT-Basic National Registry certification.
Most hospitals allow volunteers to assist in a range of areas, from the reception desk to the emergency department. Volunteer positions at GW Hospital are available. Children's National Medical Center, Howard University Hospital and Georgetown University Hospital also provide volunteer opportunities.
Hospitals are not the only places that need volunteers! There are many health-related organizations in the D.C. area, providing both direct health services and indirect support. See our list of DC organizations (PDF) for information about volunteering. More ideas for volunteering in healthcare can be found on EduMed.org.
Medical Assistant, Scribe or Technician Positions
Several physicians and hospitals in the area hire undergraduates to work part-time as assistants, scribes or technicians.
Health Leads trains GW undergraduates to staff the Health Leads Desks in local area clinics and hospitals. Students volunteer their time as Health Leads Advocates, working side by side with patients to connect them with community resources such as local food pantries and utilities assistance programs.
International Health Experience
Many pre-med students are interested in gaining international clinical experience. This can be valuable, but two things should be noted. First, medical schools place heavier weight on domestic clinical experience. Having both domestic and international experience is fine. But if it comes down to one or the other, one should pursue in-country opportunities. Second, you should make sure that any international experience is above-board. Medical schools will not be impressed if you worked with doctors abroad and did things that were questionable given your skills and experience level. The following organizations are good places to start for international clinical experience.
- International Service Learning
- Child Family Health International (CFHI)
- Gap Medics
- Atlantis Project
Summer Enrichment and Pipeline Programs
The AAMC maintains a database of summer enrichment and research programs for undergraduate students.