Should I focus on Volunteering or Shadowing?

Hi, so this is my first post here and I’ve been reading a lot of great stuff on here from all of you guys! I wanted to share my story so far and ask for some advice as to what I should do.

I didn’t decide to go premed track until last week. I joined the Army after high school and trained as an X-ray tech for a year. During the last 6 months of that training I did clinicals where I worked as an X-ray tech in a hospital for 40 hours a week (800-1000hrs total), along with some OR,IR,Ortho,CT rotations. It was a great experience and I loved it! Unfortunately the Army has stopped providing civilian certifications for it and so I couldn’t work as an X-ray tech until I got licensed civilian side, so after my Army training i decided to go to community college and then transfer to a 4 year.

Fast forward to now. I am a junior in University, I am studying for MCAT, I am studying for civilian side X-ray tech cert, going to class, do Army Reserves, go to gym, and tutor classes.

My concern is that I’m pretty sure my clinical experience is too old (if I submit in June it will be almost 4 years old) and that I’ve done very little patient practice since then. Being a medical reservist I fairly often do training involving patient simulations for different scenarios. But its only once a month and only a simulation. I’m also concerned that if I do find a volunteer position at a hospital I would not be getting much patient interaction and it wouldn’t even count as clinical work. I also have almost no shadowing experience, but I think I will secure one in the next 2 weeks with a contact, and hopefully be able to do something like 5 hrs a month.

So I feel like I am lacking in both clinical consistency and shadowing experience and also my extra curriculars. I really don’t want to postpone applying for another year and I will do what I can now, but if I have to I will. So my question is should I just take any hospital volunteer position and just go with it and couple in my shadowing or should I just shadow and hope that my precious clinical experience in the military counts?

I know this was really lengthy it’s just I’ve been asking my peers and they honestly don’t know and I’m too poor to ask Dr. Ryan Gray lol (love his podcasts though).

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!!

TL/DR: I’m a premed kid that’s dumb late to the game and by some miracle is hoping to apply this cycle lol.

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Experience needs to be earned over a consistent time frame, because otherwise it just looks like you’re, “checking the boxes.” Even if that is not the case, as you decided last week to go premed, it may seem like a whim decision with no backbone to support your reasons for wanting to become a physician. Schools like to see that you can be dedicated to something over the long haul, because medicine is an endurance game, and that you actually care about what you are doing. If you aren’t invested in your volunteer location or shadowing hours, then find something that you actually love. It will show on your application and in interviews.

I would recommend that you get your foot back in the clinical door, at the very least to show that you are passionate about healthcare. Volunteer experience is an absolute must, both clinical and nonclinical. Again, find someplace you like, and stick with it. As far as shadowing, it’s fairly difficult to say you want to do something without ever having seen it first hand, and telling a committee that you started pursuing this path last week. Highly, highly recommend shadowing physicians from many different specialties to get a grasp on what a day in the life really looks like.

If you want it to happen, it will. Don’t worry about the time-frame, because in the end it’s meaningless - a Dr. is a Dr., regardless of if they graduated at 22 or 42. Worry about being your best, and doing what you love, because everything else will fall into place.

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Thank you for responding! I do technically have experience with doctors in shadowing because I worked very closely with different types of doctors while in the hospital, specifically ER, Ortho, IR, OR doctors. But you are right that I need to get more volunteer work in, and I need to show work over time. Thank you for your advice!

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Unfortunately, “working closely with doctors” does not count as shadowing. Working with docs, and actually shadowing a doc, are two completely different experiences. Just something to keep in mind!