There is a noticeable trend among medical schools and other health-related graduate programs to expect applicants to have medically-related experience. Exposure to the clinical aspect of medicine and patient care delivery helps to round out the emphasis placed on academics for pre-med students. Most students choose to get this experience through volunteer opportunities; however, a work-study position or part-time job can also give you valuable insight to the health care professions. Such experience can confirm your interest in the profession and broaden your understanding of the health care field. It can also help you better understand the wide diversity in a patient population and offer you greater cultural awareness. Positions in a health care setting need not be in a highly skilled area, but exposure to patients and medical professionals is important.
We strongly encourage all students to keep a journal once they begin working/volunteering in a health care setting. The journal will help students to realistically assess their commitment to a medical career and to remember experiences and reactions to events. This documentation will become invaluable during the application process when students are asked to write personal statements about their desire to enter the medical profession. [Additionally, students who wish to apply to many non-MD/DO programs (e.g., DVM, PT, PA, etc.) need to provide evidence that they have had a certain minimum number of hours of medical work/volunteer experience. A journal can help you keep track of those hours.] Below are some guidelines to help you begin a medical experience journal.
- Keep a log of your clinical experience, noting the name of the organization, the dates and hours worked, and the duties you performed.
- Intentional self-reflection: in addition to keeping track of your experience, you should also use your journal log entries to evaluate and reflect on how your understanding of the patients' experience with health care, and your own assessment of the profession may have developed in response.
- Did the experience give you the opportunity to work with a diverse population?
- Was there a physician or other health care professional who embodied what you would characterize as ideal attributes for their position? What were these attributes?
- What was your reaction to interacting with sick, injured, or incapacitated individuals?
- Did the experience confirm your desire to be a physician? Why or why not?
Opportunities for medically-related experience are available through various sources. Many students volunteer at a hospital that has patient care units in a wide range of specialties; however hospitals are not the only sites that offer pre-health students an opportunity to gain valuable experience. Nursing homes, hospice centers, home health care agencies, and community clinics are often eager for student volunteers. For guidance in locating positions, try the Career Center, the Yellow Pages, community websites, and campus volunteer organizations such as the Office of Community Service Learning.
Listed below are only a few of the opportunities to be found at U-M and the surrounding Ann Arbor Community:
University of Michigan Medical Center — Volunteer Services Department
A three-term commitment is required, and 2-4 hours per week is expected of volunteers. The three terms do not have to be consecutive.
ProjectServe, Office of Community Service Learning
(734) 936-2437 http://ginsberg.umich.edu/serve/
Volunteer placements, Alternative Breaks, campus programs, and SERVE Week.
St. Joseph Mercy Hospital Volunteer Services
Hospice of Washtenaw
Direct care volunteers provide social and emotional support for patients and families. Time commitment is approximately 2-4 hours each week.
Individualized Home Care
Volunteer and work opportunities helping seniors with daily living activities.
Psychology 211 http://www.sitemaker.umich.edu/projectoutreach/home
Sociology 389 http://ginsberg.umich.edu/projectcommunity/
Each August, the U-M Career Center publishes an updated list of local health care related opportunities. Consult the Career Center's "Volunteer and Employment Resources for Health Oriented Students"
Students who plan on going to medical school right after they graduate should not rule out participating in special opportunities offered by U-M's undergraduate program or by various other institutions across the country...
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