How to Make Premed Nonclinical Experiences Relevant to Practicing Medicine

While clinical experiences are critical for being a successful medical school applicant, nonclinical activities can offer valuable skills for premed students. Linking extracurricular activities outside of health care to clinical medicine is important for medical school applications.

Here are four popular nonclinical areas and how you can relate experiences in them to clinical medicine in your medical school applications:

— Teaching and coaching

— Athletics

— Retail and restaurants

— Nonscience research

Teaching and Coaching

Gaining teaching experience prior to medical school can help with patient education. Physicians educate patients and their families about diagnoses and treatment plans every day. For example, a primary care physician caring for a patient with diabetes has to coach the patient about eating healthy, exercising and properly taking medication.

Popular teaching-related extracurricular activities among premeds include working as a teaching assistant for college courses, tutoring at after-school programs and teaching full time during gap years. Some premeds coach athletic teams in recreational leagues or the Special Olympics.

[Read: 4 Activities That Make Strong Medical School Candidates.]

On medical school applications, show how you can break down complex concepts and tailor your teaching style to an individual, because this skill is important when you educate your patients. Share specific stories of individual students you tutored and coached.

For example, when teaching a student one-on-one, you have to be creative and adjust your teaching to accommodate that student’s learning style. Some students learn better using tactile objects, others learn better with whiteboard diagrams and some learn better by doing repetitive practice problems.

Athletics

Medical school applicants sometimes write about lessons learned through their involvement in sports, including teamwork, the work ethic to improve skills and perseverance through injuries. Fundamentally, medicine is a team sport. In order to take care of patients in emergency room traumas, for instance, doctors, nurses, first responders and emergency department technicians all play crucial team roles in stabilizing patients and treating them.

[READ: Medical Students Learn to Work as a Team.]

Some premeds engage in athletics through collegiate Division I varsity teams, intramural sports and hobbies. Athletics range from individual pursuits like running and archery to team-based sports like soccer and basketball.

For medical school applications, athletes can write about the importance of teamwork in order to overcome challenges. On the soccer field, different positions have varying roles; everyone, from the goalie to the forward, is vital in order to win. A medical school applicant can give examples of how he or she helped a teammate, or how a teammate was supportive during troubling times such as recovery from an injury.

Similar to developing one’s skills in sports, a budding physician also has to practice improving at medical procedures.

On medical school applications, premeds can discuss how they exemplify grit and perseverance in their sports and how that will translate to their medical careers. Athletes have to relentlessly practice their skills in order to set new personal records and improve their overall game. Similarly, physicians have to be skilled in several procedures, such as performing surgeries and inserting tough IVs. Practice makes perfect.

Retail and Restaurants

Customer service is an important lesson learned when working for a restaurant or retail store. As physicians, we want to deliver the best patient experience possible.

Medical school applicants can show through such experiences how they deliver excellent customer service and resolve customer conflicts. For example, you can tell a story about an angry customer and how you handled the scenario.

It is important to discuss the details and steps you took to address a difficult situation. Based on your description, a medical school admissions reader should be able to envision how you would approach a similarly difficult scenario with a patient. Additionally, you can discuss how you went above and beyond for a particular customer and relate it to how you will go the extra mile for patients.

Another aspect about working in restaurants that applicants can discuss is the ability to juggle and satisfy several customer demands at once. Particularly in a busy restaurant, customers are ordering food, making follow-up requests, ordering more food and paying their bill. And, of course, a great server has a genuine smile on his or her face.

A premed who can handle many demands can apply these experiences to meeting the needs of several patients at once. Physicians can see multiple patients per hour and juggle calling consultations, answering patient phone calls and ordering prescriptions in between patient visits.

Nonscience Research

Understanding, analyzing and interpreting medical research are important skills that physicians acquire through medical training. Physicians should also be able to explain research findings to laypersons. For example, when an oncologist diagnoses a patient with a newly found cancer, the oncologist has to be familiar with the medical literature to determine the next steps of diagnostic tests and treatment courses.

[READ: 4 Ways Premed Students Can Make an Impact in Nonclinical Settings.]

Many students ask whether they have to conduct science research in college. The answer is no. Instead, students should pursue whatever research and intellectual pursuits they are passionate about. Popular nonscience research projects that some premeds engage in are in the fields of literature, anthropology, sociology, economics, history and public policy. All of these research interests can be applied to health care.

Conducting independent research requires a student to pose a question about a problem, present a framework to analyze the problem and then produce findings. These are the same skills in and out of medicine.

When discussing your nonmedical research project on your medical school applications, convey what inspired you to conduct the research. Walk your reader through each step of the research process. Being able to communicate your research clearly will show the admissions committee that you have the ability to distill important concepts for patients.

Nonclinical extracurricular activities can highlight great attributes about you on your medical school application s. Do not shy away from writing about them. Just remember to explain how the skills in each activity can relate to becoming a great physician.

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How to Make Premed Nonclinical Experiences Relevant to Practicing Medicine originally appeared on usnews.com

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