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How should I look for volunteer opportunities in the medical field?

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John’s Answer

Ideally Rashin, there are two options, shadowing and volunteering. Shadowing is usually short term but you'll able to see many different facets of medicine through different shadowing experiences. Volunteering allows you to demonstrate a commitment to service over time. It's usually a more active experience than shadowing, which tends to be more observation.


Remember to begin looking for clinical experience early. Some locations have wait-lists or extensive volunteer application/training processes, and it may take some time before you're able to begin your clinical experience. As you're contacting doctors to shadow or sites for potential clinical experience, be sure to let them know you're a pre-med/pre-health student, and explain why this experience will be important/relevant to you. The hospital offers an endless way to volunteer your time and talent. It’s completely up to you how much time you will spend on volunteering each week or month. You can work with hospital staff, spend time with patients, do some administrative tasks with staff, assist doctors during operations, etc.

FIND A HOSPITAL – Make a list of hospitals in your area that you are willing to travel to on a regular basis. Volunteering at a hospital is a large commitment. You want to find a hospital that is convenient for you to visit. For example, if you plan to volunteer after school or work, choose a hospital that is close to your job or school. If you plan to volunteer on the weekends, choose a hospital that is close to where you live.
• Before you go ahead, do some research work on the internet.
• Contact local health care or organizations to ask about the hospital or medical volunteering opportunities.
• Make a list of hospitals and clinics based on your interests and location.

ASK EARLY – Hospital policies regarding student observers vary and are usually buried on a deep, secret link on their website that you will never find on your own. Some will require a TB skin test, orientation, and background check, while others will allow you to simply walk right in. You will need to plan accordingly to determine how much leg work you’re going to have to do before you can start shadowing.
• Based on your location and hospital choice, you need to fill out an application form.
• Attend a volunteer orientation session, and go through the health screening test.
• You need to be at least 16 years old to volunteer.
• You have to declare criminal record if you have any.
• You may have to attend a short informal meeting with health care trust staff.
• Depending on the scope of your volunteering work, you may have to complete a short training.

BE PROFESSIONAL – Although you are not an employee, you should still be professional. Show up to work on time, treat patients and visitors with respect, report any unsafe conditions, and do not use your cell phone while you are volunteering. Your professional conduct contributes to a safe environment for both you and the hospital patients, visitors, and employees.

FOLLOW THE RULES – As a volunteer, you must respect the privacy of all the patients at the hospital. Do not share any patient's medical information, name, address, phone number, or any other identifying information with anyone. You are also responsible for knowing and following the other policies and procedures.

Volunteering at a hospital benefits the volunteer, the patients, the families, and the hospital workers. The volunteer often benefits from meeting new people, learning new skills, gaining experience and improving self-worth. Meeting new people helps improve social skills and increases the individual’s social network. The volunteer may become friends with fellow volunteers or patients. Friendships are important for individuals. They help individuals get through tough times and contribute to a greater sense of confidence. Learning new skills is also a valuable benefit for the volunteer. The skills may help the volunteer with everyday tasks, such as operating a computer, or with career-related tasks that will help the individual obtain a job. Individuals wishing to go to medical school and work in hospitals will also gain relevant experience and boost their resumes.

Physician assistants work with doctors to provide patient care in a variety of settings including hospitals, doctor's offices, and clinics. Training to become a physician assistant is extensive and involves both a BACHELOR'S DEGREE and a further two-year MASTER'S PROGRAM, as well as a certification exam and continuing education.

Hope this was Helpful Rashin

Thank you very much, Mr.Frick! I will get started using the information you have provided me with so hopefully, I can shadow/volunteer as soon as possible! Rashin S.

Your Welcome Rashin, It was my Pleasure. The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. John Frick

Great advice! Ashlee R.

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Alycia’s Answer

The firs thing I would recommend is to ask around: ask your healthcare provider if there are any volunteer openings at the hospital you frequent. Ask your school counselor if they can help you find local clinics that are looking for volunteers. Heck, you could even ask your extended family or friends if they know of any volunteer positions that need a pre-medical student like yourself.

The great thing about social media is that there are so many different ways you can connect with people, especially those that are in your area. Join a Facebook group that is dedicated to finding volunteering positions in your town. Be active: post that you are looking for volunteer opportunities in your area and be sure to frequently check that page for any updates. The same can be said for LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.

And lastly, just Google "volunteer opportunities in the medical field"! There are tons of credible sites that offer amazing opportunities ranging that you can even filter depending on the type of position you are looking for: remote or in-person, the demographic you are working with, and so on. The one I like to use is VolunteerMatch.org.

I hope this helps Rashin, and good luck!

Alycia recommends the following next steps:

Once you do find a volunteer job, be sure to show your strong points when applying: aspiring physician, willing to learn, eager to start soon.

Thanks Alycia!! I'll get on that! Rashin S.

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Yasemin’s Answer

Hi Rashin! I agree with the previous answer it is very detailed and helpful! I think for volunteering doing something clinical is crucial because you want to know if you like medicine and actually working with patients and clinical volunteering along with shadowing- which is not really volunteering but more in the area of experience- will allow you to become exposed to medicine and the reality of it besides the academics. I volunteer in an ER and I have built up so much experience from it and I'm so lucky for that because I think it will make me more prepared to work and interact with patients. In addition to clinical volunteering there is also non-clinical too, which also has some weight on your medical school applications. Non-clinical volunteering allows you to grow in your experiences and work with others in a setting different from medicine; it can really be something you are passionate about and should show commitment too. You can volunteer to tutor, be a mentor, work in a soup kitchen, or teach individuals to read and enhance their literacy, it's really about what works for you! There are also some opportunities on your college campus and I would check out volunteer websites, like pointsoflight.org, they give opportunities even virtually for COVID so a lot of choices. In addition for medical school applications it is quality not quantity, so do what you love and stay committed to them, I know it may seem like you may need to do 10-20 different activities but it is important to take part in a couple of meaningful experiences than short durations that may not result in too much growth. Lastly, make sure to always keep your academics on the front goals, you want to ensure a good GPA (3.7+) to be competitive because GPA and MCAT are the most important part of your application! I hope you get to find great opportunities!

Best of luck!

Thank you so much Yasemin! I really appreciate it! I have definitely gotten started on the non-clinical work too, I just have to find my niche in that realm, but do you know how far back they take volunteer experience? I'm just asking because I have work from 13-15 years so I was wondering if that's applicable. Rashin S.

You're welcome Rashin! For volunteer work I'm assuming you mean ages 13-15, with that in mind I would double check with a premed adviser in college but let's say you do volunteer work in high school and complete that throughout college then you can list that, but if you started something a while back but didn't continue it may not be to your benefit to put it on your application. Below is from AAMC.org, they are the main site for premed students, be sure to check it out! https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/article/finding-health-care-related-volunteer-opportunitie/ Yasemin G.

Medical schools want to see commitment, this opportunity may have helped you grow or choose medicine so possibly you can touch on it in your secondaries (each medical school will send you one after completing the primary application, it is more detailed and school-oriented). However, recent opportunities especially ones in college matter the most to be honest. Sorry this is long, best of luck! Yasemin G.