But first, are you experienced?

Where do you suggest someone with a non-medical background get started on gaining an “adequate” amount/quality of experience? My goals would be to gain enough exposure to confirm this is the right path for me, AND something that would speak positively for me on a post bacc / med school applications (you know, enough to balance out the age part). I see many options, but am not clear on the pros/cons of each, and… since I’m older, i don’t want to spend several years trying everything.

Volunteer at hospital in ER or other dept?

CNA course?

EMT-B course?

I hesitate to shadow at this point, since I know very little and would have to cold call drs.

Thanks in advance for your time and suggestions. Also, thanks for all of your posts on other topics as well - made me feel slightly less crazy!

Me: 36yo BEE/MSEE worked in I.T., but a stay-at-home-mom for the past year. Just started Bio at the local cc today (prereq for the NU post-bacc, should I decide to apply there)

You are 36, but familiar with Jimi Hendrix?

Lol, VickiV!

Hi, Olisun and welcome.

I would suggest picking one thing and gaining lots of experience in that one thing. I would lean toward a quality volunteer experience over a course/training that would eat up lots of time and money. You can get great experience volunteering in a hospital or clinic setting. I am a volunteer for an inpatient hospice unit and our training alone went over a lot of CNA like tasks. It’s a volunteer role that specifically involves patient contact that can include companionship but also help with activities of daily living and assisting nurses and CNAs with task like repositioning, bathing, changing undergarments, etc. I am putting most of my eggs in this basket but I am also going to connect with a physician or two to shadow. I will do this through my premed advisor who arranges these sorts of things with the County Medical Society. If you do not have an advisor for this, try calling your County’s Medical Society or putting out feelers with your own doctors. You’d be surprised. I had a lengthy, unsolicited conversation with my internist a couple weeks ago when I was in for a routine visit. I’m sure if he was so forthright with his opinions he would be very welcome to shadowing, too. I may just ask him…

So, that’s my advice. Find one solid activity to engage in and do it with all your heart and soul. Volunteering is immensely gratifying, you can really pick and choose what type of experience you want to have, looks good, and can be very flexible so this would be my recommendation to start with. If you have a volunteer center in your city/county (check online) that can be a good starting point. They list volunteer posts available just like job postings on job websites and allow you to sift through many opportunities. Otherwise, find free clinics in the area, hospitals, nursing homes, etc and just call or find their website.

Good luck!

I’m a paramedic (you have to be an EMT before you can be a medic) but I became one for an entirely different reason than trying to get experience. It was while working as one that I realized I wanted to be a doctor. EMT-B is good course. You learn more than the usual first responders learn (most cops, lifeguards, athletic trainers etc). The clinical exposure requirements of the course are also really beneficial. You’re in the ER and on the ambulance throughout the course and seeing all the stuff we see. Now for the warnings:

Working in EMS as an EMT in most places isn’t what you would expect. Most places that provide emergency response don’t have the EMT’s do much beyond blood pressures, drive, clean, and set up equipment. You can take the job beyond that and as far as you want but you have to be aggressive and hope for a decent partner. If you use the cert to work in the ER as a tech you might get to do CPR and blood draws (depending on the system).

The exposure that you get at the EMT/tech level is more like a high-definition-3D-IMAX shadowing with the ability to see doctors (and even patients) candidly (not doctors who are aware of the student shadowing them). You’ll also pick up a lot of lingo, monitoring systems will be familiar, you’ll be familiar with normal vital sings/blood work values, and you’ll get to see some other “stuff.” It’s an expensive ticket to that experience though and you might be able to get that exposure without paying for a course. If you have any questions just let me know.

I’m a 34 year old married mom of two who is determined to save up for med school before going back…so my preschooler will probably be done with school before I am. Still, I want to do something now in addition to self-imposed reading lists and am looking for volunteer options in the medical field. I think it’d be neat to earn a certification before volunteering. I unfortunately let my first responder lapse, so I’d like to try something else. I’ve heard of several certification options: EMT-B, NA-R, Phlebotomy tech – can anyone who has gone those routes speak to the schooling and volunteering experiences they’ve had?

@Mama P: I don’t think phlebotomy tech will give you a lot of pertinent exposure. You’ll get to be good at finding veins, but you won’t get much transferable skill or knowledge. I appreciate the phlebotomy techs at work, but they don’t know anything about the patients they’re drawing blood from. (I did have one phlebotomist that probably kept a patient from coding - she recognized that a pt she had drawn blood from earlier in the day was not responding the same way and called the nurse. From the doorway, the nurse would have simply thought the pt was finally sleeping…but they were unresponsive w/significant issues instead.)

CNAs and EMT’s get better experience. What is an NA-R?

The experiences and level of care (what you are allowed to do to a patient) for EMTs working in EMS highly depends on where you live. In some placed you could be assessing, triaging, doing some minor treatments, and transporting/writing reports. In other places you are driving the ambulance and cleaning up after the paramedic does his or her thing.

EMTs who go on to work in ERs perform almost like a CNA in the ER but, in my humble opinion, it’s a higher level of care than the average CNA and they can end up doing a lot more. If you went the EMT route on the notion of looking for patient and healthcare system exposure I would say apply to ERs. Unless your heart is in EMS or some other driving force pulls you in that direction it’s just not as fast and comprehensive of a way to get “exposure.”