The A to Z of Clinical Internships: A Guide


March 16, 2020

What is a clinical experience?

Clinical experiences and volunteering in clinical settings, or any place that involves patient-doctor dynamics, is extremely important to gain exposure to the medical profession and develop key qualities. Some of these are the capacity to take initiative, passion for community service, interest in community health care, ability to clearly communicate with patients, maturity to understand the important role of health-care providers and various other professionals in a clinic like setting, and being sensible towards challenges in healthcare.

Therefore, any setting or volunteering opportunity that exposes you to the internal workings of a medical care centre qualifies enough to be a viable clinical or volunteering opportunity.

clinical experience

Some of them can be paid, some of them are on a volunteer basis, and therefore unpaid. Nevertheless, you are looking to gain exposure and learn all the qualities required to become a responsible and compassionate medical professional.

Clinical Internships and volunteering activities form a separate category of questions in your primary application. Needless to say, they hold a considerable sway when it comes to admission. There are numerous options available for getting a good and meaningful clinical exposure which will ensure that you are able to learn the various challenges and problems of medical profession.

  • Primary health-care: Clinical InternshipsYou can gain clinical experience by working in supportive roles available in the primary health care sector. It is easier to find opportunities in primary care than in other more demanding specialties. It is advisable to begin your clinical experience journey from interning in a primary health care clinic to see a wide variety of patients and conditions.
  • Volunteer in free-medical camps or serve the underserved community: Medical camps are often set-up to provide free health check-ups. Blood donation camps are also organized frequently by various organizations. Simply conduct a Google search or contact your college volunteer office to find out about any available opportunities. Experiences in such camps may or may not be entirely clinical in nature. You can do it once or repeat it over a prolonged period of time.
  • Start a project: If you see any lack of resources in your community, then we suggest that you start your own little project to make the resources needed available. It can be anything from assisting elderly with a Sunday check-up by riding them back and forth, or providing door to door medicine supply, or even conducting an awareness campaign. The sky is the limit, and not to mention that such endeavors look extremely good on your application.
  • Retirement homes: You can enroll yourself as a volunteer in palliative care as well. This is not strictly a clinic stetting but geriatric care is a fundamental part of medicine. Retirement homes are a great place to learn about the importance of inter-personal communication and the emotional well-being of patients.
  • Organize funds for charity: This is a very common and preferred form of volunteering. You can surf the web for any opportunities. This is a quick and short clinical exercise, but it effectively communicates your passion for accessible health-care to the admission officers.
  • Healthcare counseling opportunities: Healthcare counseling opportunities are a great way of learning the importance and role of ground-work activities in a clinical setting. This generally involves providing pre-check up counseling to the patients, or providing farewell counseling to patients about to be discharged. This is commonly available in hospitals and you can also search online. These are very effective for learning skills such as attentive listening and developing compassion.
  • Phlebotomist: Clinical InternshipsSimilar to CNA and EMT opportunities, phlebotomist are trained and skilled individuals. They handle a fundamental part of the health-care process which includes collecting and storing blood for further handling and processing. Proper certification is required to become a phlebotomist. This is a great opportunity to learn skills such as focus, communication, multi-tasking, and these positions are usually for pay, so you can take it as a part-time college job.
  • Medical Scribing: Medical scribes play a very important role in the clinic or hospital settings. Scribing opportunities are usually for-pay and but also demand long hours of work. Most students decide to scribe during their gap year after graduation as they have more time on to dedicate to this activity.
  • CNA: Certified Nursing Assistants are always in demand and proper training courses are available for them. Such additional courses really make you stand-out from the rest of the applicants. CNA training programs can range from four to sixteen weeks. You can take one depending upon your personal preference. This is also a paid position.
  • Clinical Caretaker: Becoming a clinical caretaker is a huge responsibility and an equally great learning experience. This brings you in direct contact with an ill-patient and sensitizes you towards the daily challenges of the medical profession. Becoming a caretaker is a great way of getting to know what patients think about medical care. This knowledge can significantly impact you and inspire you to pursue a career in medicine.
  • EMT services: Clinical InternshipsEMTs are Emergency Medical Technicians. To become an EMT you have to take a certification course either through your school or hospital. EMTs work not only in hospitals, but also in various other settings such as fire departments. EMT internships offers a good opportunity to interact with patients in emergency situations. You can learn practical as well as soft skills. After clearing the requires tests and getting a license, you can begin applying for paid positions in your area.
  • Research-based Clinical Experience: A large number of opportunities are now available that fit the bill of clinical experience. Research forms a crucial part of the medical profession in general and it is important to demonstrate considerable research skills in your medical school application. The AAMC website provides a good list of summer research programs. On top of these, you can also contact your local hospitals or ask your professors if they know of any clinical research opportunities. Focus on learning and developing research skills, as well as meeting and interacting with patients.
  • Shadowing: Shadowing a physician is the most common form of clinical exercise and it offers a remarkable learning experience for pre-med students. It involves observing a physician during patient visits and provide minor assistance if they ask for it. Usually, a pre-med may be required to shadow for 40 hours or less, but is advisable that you spend four to six months shadowing in order to gain demonstrable knowledge out of it. Shadowing a physician offers various advantages, especially when you sit down to write your personal statement essay. Since physicians work in clinics or hospitals, shadowing also exposes you to various other aspects of the medical and health-care sector.

Clinical internships and volunteering work should shape your perception of medicine and healthcare. Therefore, it is important to take these exercises seriously. Pursue experiences you are genuinely interested in and make the most out of every opportunity!

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