Getting experience before med school

As I plan my own postbac program, I am looking at the experience through extra curricular activities. And I have some questions:

  1. If you want to go to an Osteopathic school they require you to shadow a D.O. and also get a recommendation from one. How long do you need to shadow?

  2. To get some clinical experience, would medical schools accept nursing courses instead of voluntary work? This seems that it would make for a more structured learning and give you some really good clinical time.

    Thanks in advance.

Schools are looking for volunteering in your community and exposure to health care. So, I do not think that just taking nursing courses will satisfy both needs.

Unless you are IN a nursing program with the intention of getting a degree in nursing, you wouldn’t be able to take a nursing course anyway - only people who’ve been accepted into the BSN (or ADN) degree program can take the clinical classes. If you are completing a nursing program, then yes, that’s some degree of clinical experience I guess.

The point of clinical experience is to show that you don’t have some unrealistic notion of what you’re getting into. A shadowing experience could blossom into a regular gig that would give you that kind of exposure. If your personal statement demonstrated that as a nursing student or a nurse, you were able to appreciate the weirdness of the U.S. health system and the role of the doctor in it, then that could work.

Volunteer work is NOT the same thing as clinical experience, as efex has already indicated. While it CAN be clinically oriented, in my view its real importance is in showing that you’ve got things you care enough about that you give your time to them. Med schools read 30,000 applications every year that contain some variation on the sentence, “I want to be a doctor so that I can help people.” It is easier to take this statement at face value if your resume indicates that you have, in fact, helped people already.

Hope that helps.


Thanks Mary,

I guess I never really made the connection.

I have a question about shadowing. How long did you shadow Mary? I am reading the point of shadowing is to get clinical experience and a better feel for what the profession is all about. What if you feel that you have gotten a grasp of that understanding after a few hours (~10 hours)? Should you continue to shadow?

Do post-bac’s get a bit of a break w/ this since its understood we have fulltime jobs and/or families?

Maybe someone who’s done shadowing and has come from a non-health care background can answer this question. I didn’t do any shadowing at all. I’d worked as a nurse and also felt that having been an adult consumer of health care services for 20 years, that I knew what I was getting into.

There isn’t going to be a formulaic answer to this question. Someone who’s had to jump through the hoops of getting care for a chronically ill child, for example, may also feel that his or her experience was more than adequate introduction to the world of health care and doctors.

As a non-trad, you will NOT get a break for the various hats you wear. When it comes to “knowing what you’re getting into,” you may find yourself held to a higher standard than a 20-year-old college junior. After all, the effort of changing careers, attending school as well as working, sacrificing family time should be done if you KNOW that what you are striving for is worth doing. I think you had better be able to show that you have an even better appreciation of the challenges and triumphs of medicine than the average applicant.