October 13, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
If you are considering applying to medical school, you likely already have your plate full of things to do and the most important thing on your long list is to keep aside lots of study time to improve your academic scores. In addition to that, you would like to spend time shadowing a doctor and perhaps go on a medical placement to a developing country. You have ‘volunteering’ somewhere on your list but do you really have time to spend on volunteering. How is that going to help you achieve your career goals? Is it really all that important?
Volunteering offers you the opportunity to try out a new career without having to make a long-term commitment and is also a great way to gain experience in a new field. This can be especially significant if you are considering a career in the medical field, which involves many years of rigorous study. For example, if you are planning on pursuing a career in healthcare, volunteering in a nursing home, an orphanage, a home for the aged or with any NGO, can help you get some hands-on experience in your area of interest. You will also get to meet other people in the same field with whom you can discuss ideas and get a different perspective on what it is like to work in that specific profession or even a particular specialty. During your time spent volunteering in a particular field, you may realise that the reality is not what you imagined at all. This in itself can help you make more informed decisions about your career choices. It is so much better to figure this out before you’ve actually spent more than five years studying in medical school.
Your volunteer work may also open up several opportunities to get in touch with relevant professional organisations and internship opportunities that could benefit your career.
Aside from exposing you to the reality of any one particular profession, volunteering also gives you the opportunity to practice a few essential but often unspoken skills that are used in the workplace such as communication, teamwork, organisation, project planning, task management and problem solving. Once you’ve honed these basic skills in your volunteer position, you will find they come naturally to you in med school and later in the workplace.
One of the most important elements in your med school application is showing the admissions authorities that you are truly passionate about helping others and there’s no better way to demonstrate this than by volunteering. Medical schools always favour applicants who have actually spent time volunteering as opposed to those who talk about their love for helping people but have done nothing to demonstrate it.