Medical Experience

I was wondering if anybody has information on the kind of experience that medical schools are looking for. I worked as a Systems Administrator at a University Hospital and my work often involved working in treatment areas between Students, Patients, and Professors. I wore the traditional white coat that all hospital personnel had to wear and often patients asked me “Doctor, …” to which I replied, “I am not a doctor, but I can point you to the person that can help you…”. One could argue that that was in the furthest sense direct patient experience. How specific does the experience that medical schools are looking for have to be? There is also a mental health hospital down the block from me and I was thinking about volunteering there, although my interest is more towards science/research/toxicolo gy as well as general medicine. However, they do also have youth drug rehab and I was thinking I could somehow make the argument in my medical school application that this type of volunteer experience is toxicology related. In general, I just find it very hard to find volunteer possibilities that are somewhat local and do not require any kind of certification. In trying to avoid wasting time on dead end volunteer possibilities, I would appreciate helpful inputs.

B.S. Environmental Management (2011)

Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical (current)

Age: 40

Some hospitals have “scribes” in the ER which is a volunteer who takes down pt. information while the patient is waiting to be seen. That helps the hospital to give care more efficiently, helps the patient get seen sooner (ideally), and would be good pt. contact -type experience.

I’d suggest picking an opportunity that you feel excited about - if you did it just to clock the hours, that is going to come across in an admissions interview. In that sense, Habitat for Humanity might be a good volunteer experience.


Thank you Kate. I appreciate your helpful input!

As an admissions director told me recently about older applicants and their experiences, “We want applicants who come out from left field” – that is, they want people who are not ordinary, and perhaps extraordinary. “If everyone in your school is doing the same volunteer work, then it makes you all look the same.” So, I would suggest trying for a medical experience that is unique, allows direct patient contact, show determined humanitarianism, and one that is NOT what your classmates are doing.

And, of course, you want medical experience that is exciting to you. Think about what is it about medicine that excites you or fascinates you and try to find medical experiences that reinforce that excitement and fascination.

You may not find the ideal experience right away; it can take a long time of doing other things, but once you find that passion, it may never go away. In my situation, I volunteered and ran a U.S.-based free clinic for the homeless and low-income for more than a decade, but it was not until I started running free clinics for the medically underserved and impoverished in rural Mexico that I got really excited and passionate about health care. I now fly there once or twice a month, spent a few days or more doing intense health work (all of it free). I cannot get enough of combining a passion for other cultures (I was an anthro major in college) with an equivalent passion for health and well-being.

It has changed my outlook on what sort of (international) medicine I want to practice, where I want to practice, and how I want to practice medicine.