I wasn’t sure where to post this question, so I’m taking a stab at it in this section. I’m wondering if ya’ll (yes, I’m from Texas) can tell me if work experience in a hospital counts towards volunteer work. I’m under the impression that most med schools require some volunteer hours at a hospital, but I have over four years of full-time work experience as a nursing assistant and lab technician at a few different hospitals. I was just curious if ya’ll might have a sense of how that works. I work full-time (and more) right now and attend classes part-time for my premed undergrad, so it doesn’t really leave time for volunteer work (unless I want to give up sleep).
The whole volunteer/work experience is to show evidence that you understand the scope of the job of a physician. If you work in a hospital, you may or may not have that understanding as your job may or may not put you in direct contact with members of the medical staff. If this is the case, you need to have some volunteer experience that will provide this exposure.
Since you are employed in a hospital, you should arrange to shadow a physician once or twice just to be sure that you have the experience that you need. Since your time is tight, you don’t have to spend days or hours doing this, it can be as simple as an afternoon in the office or a couple of hours on the weekend.
While being a nursing assistant can put you near physicians, your scope of practice is vastly different and more closely aligned with nursing (different perspective of practice from medicine). Working as a lab technician may put you with the pathologist but you may need to spend a bit of time with other specialists who have more clinical exposure. Make sure that you can explain that you have the necessary exposure and knowledge.
I do not believe that you need to add volunteering as a candy striper to your application if you have a realistic understanding of the practice of medicine. I don’t think that it matters if that knowledge comes from your work or your volunteer work as long as you can realistically relay this information during an interview.
What Nat said.
In addition, I would contend that the purpose of volunteer work is not necessarily connected to exposure to medicine. It is also a gauge of your commitment to the community, to helping others, etc. etc. How often do pre-meds say, “I want to help people,” when asked why they want to be doctors? IT’s trite but for many of us it has real meaning (though we do try to find more eloquent ways to say it)… and you had best be able to put your money where your mouth is. If you say you want to help people, but you’ve never gotten involved in your community in any way whatsoever, you’ve got a hard case to make.
When I was an AdCom member, the volunteer experiences that stuck with me were not the typical hospital volunteer ones - they were the English-as-a-second-language tutors, the church music volunteers, and other not-so-ordinary experiences.