Clinical Volunteering-- i can't tell ...

Friends, I need some advice-- I think the reason I crapped out everywhere this year (although I’m still on the same wait lists I was a few weeks ago) is insufficient clinical experience to show. I found a volunteering gig that I’m really interested in and that I think I’d be good at, but I have to be pragmatic after flushing an entire year, travel all over for interviews, and thousands of dollars to zero apparent effect. Does this description appear to be of a position that would aid in my application?

Anyone who has been through the process and is wise to the desires of admissions officers-- I would be so grateful for the insight:


HIV Testing Center Counselor

HIV TESTING CENTER COUNSELOR provides pre & post HIV, Hepatitis C and Syphilis counseling in a confidential setting. Assist clients in assessing readiness for testing as well as their ability to receive results, inform clients of confidential nature of testing and obtain informed consent; conduct overview of client’s risk of HIV transmission modes and risk reduction techniques, provide individual results and appropriate counseling and referrals, prepare notes for client records documenting all pre & post sessions and referrals. Additional duties as needed.

Weekday, day/evening and Saturday shifts available, 4 hours per week, commitment: monthly meeting, weekly supervision, one year in position. 4 day Test Counseling Training (two consecutive weekends, late APRIL 2006) followed by a 8-10 week practicum training (3 hours per week).

Attend a Volunteer Open House, held every Wednesday at either 10:30am or 6:30pm. At the 1 1/2 hour Open House, we will familiarize you with the agency’s history, mission, services and volunteer programs.

“-- I think the reason I crapped out everywhere this year (although I’m still on the same wait lists I was a few weeks ago) is insufficient clinical experience to show”

Have you been able to get any feedback on this? From what I understand (mostly from posts here), some AdComs are happy to show you what could have been improved in your app. It may pay to confirm this before jumping forward.

Also, your info mentions “late APRIL 2006” as the training date - is the position still open?

That said, the HIV counseling role sounds both clinical and compassionate, so I can only imagine it would be a good thing to do. Will you be working/continuing school/??? in the meantime?

It would be GREAT to find out why I’m getting rejected everywhere, but have you actually found that they will tell you?

The secrecy involved in the whole process is very thick-- for the schools that have wait-listed me, I theoretically need to be sitting, bright eyed and ready, in class five weeks from now, and they refuse to answer any of my email asking when they will make a decision. The idea that they will openly critique my application, I find rather hard to believe.

Re April 2006 in volunteering opportunity: It’s an old post from this clinic, but the trainings are on a cycle which will come up again later this summer.

Re work: This is a very scary subject. My replacement has already been hired, and her visa came through this week. (I committed to staying in this job two years, until I started med school.) I need to get out of here and I have absolutely no job to go to, and no certain academic future. I should probably take a job in a hospital to enhance my application, but I do not have any medical qualifications.

Re AMCAS (sigh) 2007: One heartening thing: all your information for AMCAS stays in place from one year to the next! You don’t have to reenter the basic elements, just a new essay.


I think that with no medical experience and/or qualifications it would be easier to find a job in a private medical practice. Three of my pre-med buddies are doing job like this right now, with no previous experience or training. They found doctors who hired and trained them. Two of them work for dermatologist, who specializes in skin cancer, and the thrid one works for pelvic surgeon. The jobs don’t pay a lot…it’s $10/ hour, but they love what they’re doing…

It’s just an idea…


I never would have thought of this, Kasia-- you always have the best outlook on things.

Thank you Matt .

And one more thing.

When I was volunteering in a hospital, at a surgical unit, they had very young unit secretaries. Most of them were still at school. May seem a little bit boring at the beginning - just sitting there and answering the phones, and calls from the patients but…some of them were actually later trained to be nurse’s assitants. I’m not sure how long you’d have to stik in there to get the training, but it might be a way to ‘get into’ hospital w/o any experience.

In a worst case scenario, try to find a position as a secretary in the family medicne practice. After doing front desk tasks for some time, you might actually ‘get a promotion’ to be a nurse assistant…


  • MattFugazi Said:
Friends, I need some advice-- I think the reason I crapped out everywhere this year (although I'm still on the same wait lists I was a few weeks ago) is insufficient clinical experience to show.


Matt, you don't say what clinical experience you do have, but if it doesn't involve being around sick patients (like in the hospital sick, not just the walking wounded), you might want to make sure you've explored this realm of medicine as much as possible.



In my experience, they will tell you…at least some of them will, some of the time. But you are going to have to harass them, and you need to pick the right schools. I had the most luck with my state schools. Private schools that recruit students from all over the country and that have 5000+ apps are less likely to be willing to help you versus state schools. I don’t remember where you applied and were waitlisted any more, but that’s my suggestion: go to your state schools for help.

I agree with Judy that hospital volunteering is important to a lot of schools. This is above and beyond any other volunteering, clinical work, shadowing, etc. that you do. I don’t know why that is the case, but it is. I spent a year as a volunteer in the surgery waiting room of a hospital, which I personally think was the LEAST meaningful volunteering activity that I did. (My others were volunteering as a coinvestigator and project manager of a clinical trial, serving as a Big Sister for BBBS, mentoring college students, and running the MCAT subforum on SDN.) But that’s not how the med schools saw it. I was asked during interviews at several schools about what I did in the hospital, what I had learned there, etc. This is in spite of the fact that I made it very clear in my PS that after I finish my MD I have no intention of going into clinical practice. (I want to go into research.) Even some of the most research-intensive schools you can think of cared that I had that hospital experience.

Best of luck to you, Matt; I hope you get off one of those waitlists soon.


What if you work in a hospital, but not in direct patient care? What would the adcoms think of that?

I ask, because I work in the pharmacy at my hospital. I learn about patients’ conditions through what their scripts and nurses say, but I never actually meet any of them.


undoubtedly your pharmacy experience is very valuable, but you also need some experience where you would interact with patients! And here it doesn’t necessary needs to be in a hospital setting. But the ‘ad. coms.’ want to make sure that you are capable of interacting with people and you have social skills ncessary to become a physician.


I thought I’d add my 2 cents here. Many hospitals and nursing homes have a big need for volunteers for elder life programs. I’ve just started at a hospital and get a lot out of it. I work with patients one-on-one to help prevent dementia from activities like just talking about their life to ROM exercises. Many hospitals also have ED scribe programs. I’m just starting next month as one, so I can’t provide first-hand experience yet, but those who I’ve talked to who have done it learned a lot. You don’t have any patient interaction with it though.


I worked in behavioral health for ten years on the strength of an A.S. in general studies. I volunteered time at the local urban ministry (homeless shelter). From there, I became involved with the Visting Nurse Association as a Cancer Hospice volunteer. Eventually, I decided to pick up an EMT certification just because I really enjoy working with people who really need my help (even if they don’t always express an appreciation for it). As a college student I volunteered my time taking care of research animals for a professor whose classes I had really enjoyed. I have a couple friends who are MDs tell me that all of these experiences are good “experience.” None of it was particularly hard to come by. You just have to be willing to pitch in without expecting anymore compensation than knowing that you are contributing. Probably, the trick is doing a thorough assessment of what experience you can bring to your application and then packaging it. I’m sure that is where I’m going to be able to use a lot of help.

Tim Forsythe