Volunteer work has become a cornerstone of premedical extracurricular activities, exposing aspiring physicians to the socioeconomic and healthcare challenges faced by diverse populations, as well as cultivating clinical skills that are essential to a career…
Volunteer work has become a cornerstone of premedical extracurricular activities, exposing aspiring physicians to the socioeconomic and healthcare challenges faced by diverse populations, as well as cultivating clinical skills that are essential to a career in medicine.
The breadth of volunteer experiences available to premedical students is impressive, encompassing opportunities both domestically and abroad, in hospital settings and in non-clinical environments and over short or long periods of time.
When choosing organizations with which to volunteer, premedical students might wonder how a given experience can enhance their applications to medical school and inform their future careers in medicine. Choosing volunteer opportunities using these three questions as a guideline may help you select a volunteer position valuable to your development as both an applicant to medical school and a future physician.
Is this opportunity different from others you have completed? Participating in a broad range of experiences, especially clinical experiences, can help you develop an appreciation for the complexities and challenges of healthcare delivery.
Success in medical school is partially reliant on adaptability, and demonstrating willingness to work within novel environments may evidence your ability to accommodate change. As you consider a potential volunteer position, examine how this position differs from ones you have held previously. What new population will you encounter? Will you be working in a new environment like a street clinic or homeless shelter?
You should have depth and breadth to the experiences you put on your resume for medical school, and evaluating how each new volunteer experience will extend your perspective can help diversify your application.
Will you develop new skills or gain novel experience working as a member of a healthcare team? Examining how a potential volunteer position will extend your skill set can help you determine its value as a part of your premedical experience.
For example, training to become a volunteer emergency medical technician will impart clinical skills that are useful in emergency settings and critical care. Obtaining certification as a nursing assistant, lifeguard or crisis counselor also provides skills that are transferable to a career as a physician.
Ask yourself how this potential volunteer opportunity will integrate you into a healthcare team in a new way. Will you have the chance to interact directly with physicians? Will you be a first responder out in the field? How will the training involved in your new position benefit your training as a medical student? Seek experiences that situate you within the framework of a healthcare team and encourage increased hands-on involvement in clinical settings.
Will you be able to document your involvement in this experience for use in later medical school applications? Medical school applications require a reference contact for each volunteer experience you list, as well as a brief description of the experience, how many hours per week you volunteered and how long you held the position.
If you intend to list your new position on your medical school application, ensure you are able to provide the details necessary to complete your application. Ask who will supervise you at the volunteer site and whether that person is willing to be contacted about your participation. Ask how many hours volunteers devote per week, as well as the average duration of time they stay at the organization.