5 Ways to Get Pre-Med Experience While You’re Still in High School
If you’re a high school student interested in pre-med and a career in medicine, it’s a good idea to “take a test drive” of work in the medical field.
Medical school is rigorous, time-consuming, and expensive, and working in medicine can be emotionally and physically draining. Building experience in the medical field now can help you determine whether this is truly the right career path for you.
In addition, you’ll develop valuable skills, knowledge, and experience that will benefit you in the future. Gaining experience in the medical field now also demonstrates that you’re serious about medicine and can make your college applications more competitive.
Who knows? An experience you have now may even make the perfect anecdote for your future medical school personal statement.
Of course, you might be unsure how to gain experience in the medical field as a high school student. Here are five options to pursue.
1. Volunteer at a hospital or health clinic.
One of the best ways to build experience in the medical field is by volunteering at a local hospital or health clinic.
Of course, volunteers don’t take on the same duties as a medical professional or medical student, but you may be able to greet and provide customer service to patients, answer phones and file paperwork, or help make patients comfortable.
Volunteering in a hospital or clinical setting allows you to interact with and observe doctors, work with patients, and experience a real-world medical environment. This experience can help you gauge whether you would really like to work in the medical field on a daily basis.
To find a volunteer position, go to the websites of local clinics or hospitals where you’d like to volunteer. Then locate information about their volunteer programs. You can also call and ask whether they’re looking for volunteers and if they accept high school students. Your guidance counselor be another helpful resource in locating relevant volunteer opportunities.
2. Apply for a research or internship program.
Many medical associations, colleges, and universities offer internships and research positions for high school students. These include the National Institute of Health, Stanford Medicine, the Mayo Clinic, the American Cancer Society, the University of Chicago, and more.
These programs typically occur over the summer. Your duties and experiences will vary, but many programs include a job shadowing component, as well as hands-on practice of skills or research alongside noted scientists and medical professionals.
Taking these steps now can make your road to a medical career a smoother and easier path to travel.
You will need to apply to these programs, and many of them are highly competitive. Begin researching opportunities online and make a list of the programs that interest you. Consider factors like cost, travel, and living arrangements. Is the program near you or in a different state? Does the program help with housing, or will you need to find somewhere to stay?
Record important application deadlines for the programs that interest you and start applying. Not only are these some of the most valuable experiences available, but they’re also extremely impressive on a college application.
3. Participate in a summer medical program.
You can also participate in less competitive summer medical programs on college campuses or through organizations like the National Student Leadership Conference.
These programs are essentially summer camps for high school students interested in studying medicine. They can include attending workshops, meeting medical students and/or professors, participating in simulation labs and research investigations, learning basic medical examination and surgical techniques, and more.
While these summer programs are not as impressive for your resume as a competitive internship or research position, they do offer valuable experience. It’s also enjoyable to experience life on a college campus and meet students who share similar interests and career goals.
4. Job shadow a doctor.
Job shadowing allows you to spend a day or several days observing a professional in a job that interests you. You may have the chance to perform some basic job duties, and you’ll get to discuss the career with a professional and learn about their schedule, day-to-day experiences, and responsibilities.
To job shadow a doctor, start by asking your guidance counselor if he or she knows of any organizations you can contact. You can also call or email a local hospital or clinic and ask if they would allow you to shadow someone.
Once you’ve set up a date and time, prepare some questions you’d like to ask the doctor you’re shadowing. For instance, you may ask:
- Why did you choose to become a doctor?
- What makes a successful doctor?
- What do you like and dislike about the career?
- What advice would you offer to a medical school student/doctor?
- What else can I do to prepare for medical school and for a career in medicine?
Ask anything else you’re curious about and soak in the experience. Pay attention to the overall environment, the pace of work, and the tasks the doctor performs throughout the day. Would you be up for the job? Do you think you would enjoy it? Try to imagine yourself in the shoes of the person you’re shadowing to determine whether the medical field is truly a good fit for you.
5. Volunteer at a nursing home or homeless shelter.
Doctors must be compassionate, empathetic, and able to communicate with and serve people from all walks of life. Therefore, any volunteer experience serving other people is useful. Even if your experience isn’t directly tied to the medical field, you can begin developing and practicing the qualities needed to be a successful doctor.
If you know that you’d like to practice medicine in rural areas or in underserved neighborhoods, volunteer in communities that reflect the populations you’ll be working with in the future.
These volunteer opportunities can be found by asking your guidance counselor for help, searching online, or contacting community organizations directly.
The Bottom Line
No matter how you do it, gaining experience in the medical field is extremely beneficial for medical school hopefuls. You can gauge whether medicine is the right career for you and perhaps even find a specific population you’d like to work with or type of medicine you’d like to practice.
You can build connections, gain knowledge and skills, and have experiences that will serve you well in medical school and in your future career as a physician. You’ll also make your college application more competitive.
So, volunteer at a hospital, apply for a research or internship position, attend a summer medical program, job shadow a doctor, or even find other volunteer work serving others. Taking these steps now can make your road to a medical career a smoother and easier path to travel.
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