Premed Patient Exposure

Hello everyone! I am in the process of taking my premed classes so that I can apply to med school summer of 2013. I have a BA in Music and a Master’s degree in Music. I still currently work in the music field and actually teach college at the same school I am finishing my premed requirements. I have a wife and two kids. Life is very busy for me as it is for all of you.

My question: I have no problem doing volunteer work, shadowing doctors, and have plenty of leadership opportunities. I am having a very hard time finding opportunities for patient exposure. I am too busy and feel too old to become a medical assistant, CNA, or phlebotomist JUST so I can list that I have ‘Patient Exposure.’ Any advice? Any other opportunities that I am missing that are straight forward?

Thanks in advance! I was glad to find this forum:)



Your patient exposure comes from good shadowing. You need to do some research and find a physician that will allow you to shadow him/him while he/she sees patients in a clinic/hospital or operating room!

Good Luck!

I got a job at one of the Austin Hospitals as a patient sitter( official title-patient safety assistant). I worked for the staffing agency that was part of the hospital network . I was rotated to different floors and different hospitals within the network which allowed me to see various units. I would also be spending from 8 to 12 hours with the same patient. The staffing agency had a minimum requirement of 2 weekends per month. The rest of the week it was up to me if I wanted to work. I am not sure if “patient sitter” is a common position in your local hospital but I would still check in your area if it is something you are interested in.


Perhaps you can work as a tech in the ED or get your EMT basic. The tech job in an ED will give you exposure to pt’s, especially because some tech’s do the vitals at triage, EKG’s and take down their history.

I would not recommend you becoming a Medical office assistant and, unless you want to work in an assisted living facility, I’d have to shy you away from CNA work.

Follow an ER doc and an ER nurse in at least a level two trauma facility during a 19-07 shift. You’ll see STEMI’s that go to the cath lab within 90 minutes, MVC’s, lots of chest pain for a wide variety of reasons and the treatment for each. It’s very fast paced and will give you great exposure

Another option to employment would be to volunteer in the ED. I did this to fulfill both the patient exposure and volunteer requirements. Level 2 and above EDs are usually not very open to volunteers, but they may make an exception for you.

Apply through the volunteer office, making clear what your intentions are, and they will put you in touch with the ER director if there’s an opportunity. You won’t do much in terms of hands-on patient care (my “duties” consisted of stocking phlebotomy carts, linens, etc), but you will get lots of chances to observe. I volunteered two 4-hr evening shifts/week and every other Saturday; doable with a full-time job and DIY post-bacc. I quickly got to know some of the docs and nurses, and they were great to pull me in to watch a trauma or interesting case. Although I did not choose emergency med as my specialty, it was a wonderful experience, and helped to seal the deal in my own mind that medicine was what I wanted.

Very helpful ideas so far! Thank you so much.

Patient exposure doesn’t mean extensive talking with or even assisting patients. The “exposure” portion of my volunteering involved bringing warm blankets into patient rooms in an emergency department. In two months I only had 3 or 4 patients actually acknowledge or speak with me beyond saying “yes” to the question about wanting a blanket, or asking me to go get a nurse. I got much more interaction shadowing a pain management doctor, who’s patients enjoyed gabbing with me while she typed up her notes between questions. And I suspect she enjoyed having me there to converse with them, because it allowed her to slow down the pace a bit.

I think this is why community volunteering at places like food banks are so important - this is where you really get a chance to interact with people.

Good luck!

I work at a level I ED and there are a ton of volunteers spending time there for one reason or another. Some are there for EMT credit while others are undergrads/premeds or local religious organizations.

The extent of their patient exposure is in line with what Pixie stated; pt xports, apple juice go-for’s, and the occasional “safety partner.” They all live for the traumas and being able to hang out in the trauma bay to observe, especially if it’s an Alpha trauma (GSW, MVA, etc.) There is virtually no “exposure” in that setting. Granted you certainly get the credit for it, however IMHO I often focus on how the physicians interact with the trauma team then I do interacting with pt’s.

My illustrious career as an ED volunteer included such thrilling patient exposures as: wiping down beds and changing sheets between patients, asking if they wanted a heated blanket to supplement the sheet they had on the bed, making hard clinical decisions like “Sprite or Pepsi???” and “Tuna Salad or Chicken Salad!!!” and the ever critical “Yes sir, the bathroom is right this way.”

IMHO the real value in these sorts of environments comes from those slow nights (remember, NEVER use the word ‘quiet’ in an ED) when you have time to talk with the doctors and nurses about their lives in the medical profession. Spend two hours chatting with an EM physician about malingering patients and the joy of death threats from junkies who they won’t give a fix to and you’ll have a much clearer picture of just how sure you are that you want to get into medicine.

At my hospital, we have a lot of techs that work on a PRN basis and may work only a couple of shifts each month. It might be a way to get some good patient exposure without messing with your schedule too much. As a plus, you get paid My time spent as a tech has been invaluable. There’s plenty of interaction with nurses and doctors, you learn a lot of medical terminology, assist with minor procedures like NG tube placement, get to watch more complicated procedures, and do a few things yourself (I d/c IV’s and catheters, among other things.) I’ve learned that I actually like working with patients, even when they’re yelling and cursing because you’ve put them in restraints or are confused from a fall and belligerent. It’s cemented by commitment to becoming a doctor.

Just make sure you’ve got some solid volunteering experience in there, as well. Medical exposure is great (and essentially an unwritten requirement), but most adcoms want to see a pattern of giving back to the community in some meaningful way~

  • NightGod Said:
Just make sure you've got some solid volunteering experience in there, as well. Medical exposure is great (and essentially an unwritten requirement), but most adcoms want to see a pattern of giving back to the community in some meaningful way~

Volunteering with the underserved, "down in the trenches." Being a doc is a service occupation and AdComms want to know that you have an altruistic streak. "Arms length" away (e.g. pushing papers, etc.) where you aren't interacting one-on-one doesn't cut it.