do I need to get a job in health care now?

Hi all,

As some of you know I am on the post-bacc route now. (thanks a LOT to the info on this list)

The program I decided to attend will allow me to keep working, its a program for working adults in a four year institution, but I am wondering should I get a job now in health care?

I currently work in financial services/technology (yuck -lol and j/k for those you love those fields)and though I am part of a non profit health care organization on a continuum, I am worried I may not have enough “health care” experience to get into medical school.

I have done volunteer work in the ER and other health care related volunteer activities but it was in the past so I am thinking maybe I should do more or get a job in the health care sector?

I was even thinking about trying to be an EMT, but with classes, work, family, etc. that may be unrealistic? Though I am always up for the challenge

I am only asking this after reading some of the information here on volunteering. what do you think?

sorry for any typos…but I hope to get some replies. =)

also obviously I will continue to volunteer but I just really wanted to know the pros and cons of actually working in a health related job vs. pure volunteering.

To me the volunteering plus the other experiences would only add to my application, but I am not on an adcom committee. hence…this post

Actually I work in healthcare and have been since 1990 when I was a medical transcriptionist. I am now currently working as a Cardic Monitor Tech/Health Unit Coordinator on a telemetry floor. While stressful at times, it has been very educational. I have the opportunity to work with many health professionals, and while I don’t do direct patient care…I am the first line when the patients hit the call light, and providing care in an indirect way including working the patients’ families and friends.

I think instead of what adcoms think about your ECs, it is important of what you think of your ECs. If you find that you are getting a good volunteer experience, a healthcare job isn’t required. If you have to work (which many of us do while we pursue medical school), I think working in healthcare is an excellent idea.

Honestly, I would recommend EMT to anyone who plans to go to medical school. What better way to get your feet wet than to learn basic emergency medicine, patient care, medical terminology, and practical application of what you learn? I’m more than halfway through my EMT course right now, and I’ve done my ride along in an ambulance, and I can’t even express how helpful the experiences have been so far.


That is horrible advice. Next thing you’ll have people applying to EM after medical school and that’s not good…at least not for me.

The EMT route has worked okay for me, but I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. A good friend of mine who has worked as a paramedic for the last 15 years says he is only now beginning to enjoy it. He currently has more of a management/teaching position. His advice to me was, “EMTs do bitch work for bitch pay.” In other words… don’t do it unless you honestly love the work so much that all the crappy aspects of the job don’t matter to you.

Granted, you will have a clinical leg up on young, traditional med students, but that won’t last very long. An EMT-B cert. will get your foot in the door for a very limited range of jobs (mine required me to have a CNA alongside the EMT), and will likely eat up a lot of your time unless you have an especially understanding employer (mine has been fantastic). If you can’t use your certification in a meaningful way, the certification is unlikely to carry much weight with admissions folks (the “unapplied knowledge is of limited value” theory). I feel like I could easily have done extracurricular activities that would have given me equivalent clinical exposure without the EMT certification (hospice, nursing home, hospital volunteer, etc.)

One clearly positive advantage of my EMT training is that I have a more visceral understanding of basic physiology. I have premed peers who are “having a cow” over subject areas that haven’t been covered in the post-bacc premed curricula here. I could talk about electrolyte concentration gradients, the oxygen vs. CO2 dissociation curves, and compensated vs. decompensated shock all day long (I’ve seen how these apply in real trauma patients). I’m uncertain how much this will help me on the MCAT, but if it gets me past a question or two, that’ll be good enough for me. If I get an interview somewhere, I’ll definitely have plenty to talk about if “previous clinical experience” comes up as a topic. I absolutely do NOT want to give anyone the impression that I believe I already know “everything.” Besides being incredibly naive, such an attitude would completely send the wrong message to me if I were in the shoes of an admissions intereviewer.

The main disadvantage of my EMT training has been the couple of semesters that I spent on that training rather than on my medical school prerequisites. On the other hand, the basics I picked up from my EMT classes were posivitively reinforced by the classes I’ve taken during my post-bacc. Perhaps that speaks to the “pre-loading” that was spoken of in a previous post here.

Are all paths not equally valid if they lead to the goal? I’m a big believer in enjoying the journey as much, or possibly more than, the destination. So far, it has been an adventure. Ask me again in the middle of MS1 and, hopefully, I’ll be able to give the same answer. I apologize for the ramble, but I hope it gave someone some sort of insight.


I was working full time while taking classes and volunteering and never even considered a health care job. Getting a little patient contact through your volunteer work is enough to remind you whether you want to be around sick people for a living and also show admissions committees that you did your homework and do care about people. It’s not necessary to add professional experience, especially if your schedule is crazy.

  • orangesoda415 Said:
sorry for any typos...but I hope to get some replies. =)

also obviously I will continue to volunteer but I just really wanted to know the pros and cons of actually working in a health related job vs. pure volunteering.

To me the volunteering plus the other experiences would only add to my application, but I am not on an adcom committee. hence...this post

By "other experiences" I assume you mean the other things you do that are NOT health care related, as opposed to volunteer work where you're getting some exposure to the world of health care?

If I've stated that right - I heartily agree. Your current career is a dimension to you that is important. Presumably you've learned useful skills and have applied them in a variety of situations. This is a good thing.

As samenewme said, you need enough contact with the world of health care to know if you want to do it, and if you want to function as a doctor in that setting. That definitely doesn't mean it needs to be your job.

Finally, with the most cheerful respect to Tim, Crooz and the other E-med junkies out there, I would've poked my eyeballs out with a sharp stick before I'd consider EMT-ing. I don't say that out of any disrespect for the field. It's just that the work doesn't float my boat at all. And that's important - you need to be able to speak enthusiastically about whatever health care contact you do have, whether it's paid or volunteer. Judy Colwell calls it the "eyes light up" factor. It makes a BIG difference in an interview when you are clearly inspired and enthusiastic about what you've done.


I would say that if it is feasible to get a health care job without setting yourself back too much on your prereqs, you should do it. No, you don’t have to, but I did, and I’m glad. I worked in the financial services industry, and decided to get a little extra training and find a patient care job while I did my prereqs. Since I have to work full time, I figured that my job should at least help me with the process.

I’m an ultrasound tech now, and it’s very educational. It’s not really that I think it will help me in medical school (probably not, except possibly in anatomy). But I’m in the hospital 5 days a week and I am seeing the good and the bad of the medical field. I’ve had to do some serious soul searching about whether this is the right field for me to be in. I think that it is, but I’d rather face those questions now than in 3rd year (or worse - intern year, when it’s too late). Having mean, unpleasant patients (as well as wonderful, nice ones), dealing with the mounds of paperwork, the incredible workload, the stress, the terrible smells, and the body fluids… I’m just a tech, and I am sure that as a Dr. all of these negatives are multiplied and added to by others. But at least I’ve been exposed to it. As a volunteer, there’s no real responsibility, no gravitas. You are a tourist. I am aware all day that I could be named in a lawsuit. I am aware all of my workday that if I miss a lesion on my liver scan or a saccular aneurysm on my aorta scan, someone could die for lack of treatment. That’s the sort of thing that I am glad I am facing now, because if I proceed along this path, that kind of heavy responsibility and the concominant stress will be mine for the rest of my life.