Experience VS. Volunteer

Hi All,

Just recently found MSHQ and this site by extension. So glad I did. I’ve been floundering a bit too long.

To introduce myself and give a little background, I am a 40-year-old mother of four (2 adult, 1 teen, 1 pre-teen). In my previous life, ie. before divorce, I was an Administrative Assistant for more than a decade in both for-profit and non-profit corporations. During that time I earned my AA in Business, graduating Magna Cum Laude. Office work, however, was never satisfying. I longed to serve in a more direct capacity. Eventually, I found myself an out of work single mother and turned my sights towards healthcare. In high school I had wanted to be a veterinarian, but passed up a job offer from the local animal hospital to continue caring for a friend’s terminally ill mother. It suddenly made sense.

Fast-forward to today, I have been in healthcare for a little more than 7 years, the majority of which were spent in the care of individuals with developmental disabilities in both facility and home settings. Following my LVN licensure, I provided in-home care for a young man who suffered quadriplegia due to an accident. At present, I have been employed in a correctional environment, spending two years in the adult setting, and now in the juvenile.

My question is, with the experience I have, do I still need to look for volunteer and shadowing opportunities? As has been the case for the majority of my education, I am balancing full-time work and a full class load. At some point, I just have to accept that there are only so many hours in a day. I am still looking at 3 years to get a BS in Health Science with a minor in Biology. (Nursing level Science classes do not meet the Biology and med school requirements, unfortunately, so I’m retaking all of Biology and Chem. That’s what I get for raising my career standard so late in the game.) Are volunteering and shadowing worth making time, possibly taking time off, to accomplish?

I would say shadowing, for sure, is worth making time for. Being an LVN is very different from being a physician, and schools will want to know that you have a good understanding of what it is you’re trying to enter into. Following a physician, seeing that medicine is 10% patient and 90% documentation (slight exaggeration?), realizing that clinical decision making can be difficult, managing a care team, etc, is very different from the picture people get when they think of being a doctor. Some schools outright require shadowing experience as a prerequisite as well. You don’t need hundreds of hours of shadowing, but you should do as much as you need to get a good understanding of your view of that life so you can write about it on an application. A few years ago, Univ Washington had a requirement of 40 hours minimum, so that’s a decent target in my opinion. Others who might not have applied there should weigh in on how much time they spent shadowing though.

Volunteering is probably not that much of a necessity for you due to your previous career experience, demands of single-mom life, etc.