December 18, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
The next question on most premeds’ minds is sure to be, “Which activity should I indulge in” or “Which activity will give me the best chance of admission”?
There is no specific answer. It could be just anything related to physicians, patients or the healthcare industry as a whole. If you love spending time with older people and can somehow fit that into an interaction with patients, you’ve found your activity. If you love sports and can find an opportunity that involves healthcare in sport that’s your extracurricular activity. The most important thing to keep in mind is to make it count. Reflect on your experiences. Make notes of what you did and how certain things make you feel so that you have lots to talk about at the interview.
Resist the temptation to jump from one activity to another just so you can fill the space with a long list of activities. Listing several activities with having spent just a couple of days at each activity could actually count against you as the school could question your ability to commit. Medical school is a big commitment and the admissions committee wants to see signs that you are committed to sticking it out no matter how boring or how tough it gets.
Three excellent ideas for medical school extracurricular activities are volunteering, shadowing and medical placements.
Volunteering is the easiest to get and there’s no excuse not to volunteer. Every student who wishes to get into medical school should volunteer. There’s no better way to prove your altruism and your selflessness than by giving back to the community.
So where can you start with volunteering. Once you start exploring you’ll find that opportunities abound. There are all kinds of voluntary or charity health-related organisations that are always glad to have an extra pair of hands to help out. Start by making a list of all hospitals, clinics and voluntary establishments in your community. Call each one and ask how you can volunteer. Some places may require you to fill out a small application; others may invite you to a short interview. Some of the larger organisations may hold an orientation that you will need to attend before you can start.
While volunteering in a hospital, you may not be allowed direct patient contact in the wards but you may be allowed to help out in the physiotherapy department or with wheeling patients from one investigation to the next or even with the hospital recreation department where you could lead morning exercises and host other fun and recreational activities.
It may seem at first that these are insignificant activities that are sure to go unrecognised but that’s not necessarily true. There are always ways to stand out and get noticed even in the most trivial of jobs so make sure you always do your best, no matter what you are doing. This can help you get that stellar letter of recommendation that could make the difference between getting a place at the institution of your choice.
Volunteering is the easiest to get medical extracurricular activity, so try that first and don’t make excuses about why you did not or could not volunteer. Even if it does not allow you to get significant direct access to patients or doctors, it shows that you genuinely care about helping those who need help and that’s the core of what medicine is all about.