Any thoughts on Volunteering and Shadowing?

Hello All,

Does anyone have any thoughts on volunteering or shadowing. Is there an average number of volunteer hours that one needs ( or a minimum ?) What about shadowing? Hours? Variety of settings?


At the OPM conference this past June, the admissions rep from AT Still (Osteopathic med school) indicated that they look for at a minimum 200 (or was it 250) volunteer hours.

They also want to see clinical experience (interaction with patients) so if you don’t have that through your job, volunteering is a good place to get it. Interestingly, she said Emergency Room volunteering is not “the best” because you get little ongoing interaction with patients, at least in an urban ER.

Hope that helps a bit.


i believe that lynda is correct in that most schools seem to look for about 200 hrs of volunteer experience. this is separate from any shadowing experience you may have, that does not have to be as many hours though.

i believe ccom also looks for around 200 hrs of volunteer experience

Thanks for the help!!

I was also at the OPM conference, and heard Judy Colwell talk about this subject. (Thanks again, Judy!)

It was during the “What Makes A Strong Applicant” part of her presentation. (And no, I did not memorize Judy’s presentation, I’m merely looking at the copious notes I took from the conference. )

Anyway, Judy talked about four things (besides MCAT and GPA) that make a strong applicant:

  1. Clinical Experience

  2. Community Service

  3. Research

  4. Leadership

    Judy’s recommendation was to try and do 4 hours per week of something (i.e., volunteer at a cancer center – which is both volunteering AND clinical experience) for at least 1 year. There’s your 200 hours. This way you show dedication to something, regular interest in something, stick-to-it-ive-ness, etc.

    And Lynda is right – Judy suggested doing something other than the ER, because you’ll likely be doing administrative or other non-patient-related work. If you’re unsure where to volunteer or what to do, try calling local hospitals/large clinics and see what positions they have available, and decide whether any of them interest you. Also, if you live in a more urban area, check with free clinics (they ALWAYS need help – this is what I want to do).

    As others have said, shadowing falls outside of volunteering, but it is also very important.

    Whatever experiences you have, in any of those 4 categories (clinical experience – including shadowing, community service, research, leadership), I have a suggestion – keep VERY VERY detailed records. Times, dates, names, contact info, what you did (EXACTLY), your reflections, etc. A chart in Word, an Excel spreadsheet, a narrative log, whatever works for you. Fill it out religiously. Of course, don’t turn it into something impossibly cumbersome, but you get the idea. You’ll need all this info for your med school application later on, and so better to start gathering it now while you’re DOING the work than to have to backtrack. That’s a pain in the butt. (My solution to this issue is to keep a log/chart of hours spent doing X, Y, or Z, and then keep a separate narrative blog on the Internet about some of my experiences.)

    RE: Variety of settings (you asked about this) – the more variety, the better, especially when it comes to shadowing. You’ll gain a wider spectrum of knowledge. Because, after all, we do want to learn things, not JUST get in to med school … That said, when it comes to volunteering for example, I think it’s better to stick with 1 activity for your 200 hours than do 10 activities for 20 hours each (the whole dedication thing again). My thoughts, at least.

    Hope this helps!
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Thanks for the comprehensive answer!!