Clinical Experience


My question has to do with clinical experience, and what schools will accept as experience. I have been working in primary care for almost 3 years as a patient service coordinator. I work very closely with 16 doctors and spend a lot of time working directly with patients. My work is mostly administrative, however. I schedule appointments, answer phones, manage provider schedules, get insurance authorization, conduct chart review, etc… I am lucky enough to work with wonderful doctors, PAs, and nurses who will bring me into a room from time to time to watch a procedure, or just see something I might find interesting. Recently, I applied to a post-bac nursing program thinking it would be a good way of getting back into school and gain clinical experience for med school later (I also considered NP as a back up in case I wasn’t able to get into med school). However, when I did not get accepted to the post-bac program, I was told that my experience did not count as enough “clinical time.” They did not consider my work clinical experience unless I was in the room with a nurse. All of the back office, behind the scenes kind of work that I did with providers did not count. I feel like I have good knowledge of what a typical day is like for a doctor working in an outpatient clinic. I have also learned so much about specific illnesses, treatments, labs, and medications just by asking questions and following up on the treatment of patients from outside the exam room. Will medical schools accept the work that I have been doing as clinical experience, or will I need to find more time to shadow providers outside of work hours? Any feedback is much appreciated!

Thank you,


Just my opinion, but I don’t think that your experience will count as clinical experience. But keep track of the hours you accumulate watching procedures - that should count as shadowing. If med school is the aim, then you have to play the game. You need to volunteer - at the ER, you might stock blankets or spend your entire shift doing nothing. That counts as clinical experience. Your job does not. Scribing, EMT, and a whole host of other paid stuff can count as clinical experience, but volunteering is best. 150 hrs approx. volunteering and 60-80 hours shadowing should be plenty for med school applications.

That is a disappointment that you learned so much in a clinical setting but cannot count it as clinical experience. If you do decide to become a doctor having all of that office administration knowledge will surely help you understand the business aspect of being a physician. My father-in-law is a dentist and he always says he wished that his dental school prepared him for the business aspect of being a dentist.

Your best bet would be to contact the medical schools you are interested in directly and see what they say. That would be a great way to express interest in their school and have them start to get to know you. In one of the Premed Years podcasts, I can’t find which one, it was stated that one of the best ways to obtain clinical experience is by scribing and medical schools really like that experience. I inquired in my area and the pay here for all scribes is stuck at minimum wage. No matter how long you work with them you get no raises, but the experience is great. Since I am an EMT I can become an ER Tech pretty easy and am applying to that since it pays around $4 more an hour.

Just a word of caution if you look into becoming an EMT. Check the job availability and if ambulance services will work with your school schedule. I became an EMT but none of the ambulance services would take me because 1) they give priority to paramedics and there are lots in the area and 2) they will not work with a school schedule. Quite a few of us didn’t realize that before going through the program. None of us students were able to get a job on a truck. If we were in a different area though it would have been different. Some places offer sign on bonuses for EMTs. An EMT license in Louisiana is the equivalent of a CNA in the hospital and you can be an ER Tech. In the EMT training, you get 36 hours to ride with an ambulance service - so there are 36 clinical hours right there - that was an awesome experience.

Yeah all that administration stuff is good to know how to do, but doesn’t count as clinical because it’s not direct patient care. IMO volunteering at a hospital would be the best way to go. That way you can tailor your experience to what you’d like. I also recommend being at the hospital because it is a VERY different environment then a clinic, you’ll have larger chance to see higher acuity patients as well as a larger variety of medical/surgical problems. Volunteering also gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of how much time you dedicate to pursuing your clinical hours. Good luck to you on your journey!