What is the difference between medical volunteering and shadowing?

October 27, 2020

Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.

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There are many requirements for premed or prehealth students who are applying for medical school. Most university programs ask that applicants have shadowing hours as well as volunteer hours – but what is the difference between medical volunteering and shadowing?

The main difference between clinical volunteering and shadowing is that volunteering is providing unpaid work to treat or care for patients, whereas shadowing is an opportunity to observe a medical professional as they provide care for patients. 

We provide a comprehensive doctor shadowing experience which is unique to volunteering abroad. Whether you are interested in nursing, midwifery, physician assistant, or becoming a doctor, we can help support you on your journey with our doctor shadowing and international healthcare experiences

We have explored the differences between these two medical school application requirements so that you can understand what they will provide and what you should focus on. 

Doctor shadowing for prehealth students

Shadowing a doctor gives students the opportunity to observe a healthcare professional in their day-to-day life. It’s not so much about the students utilizing their own hands-on skills, but more about watching and asking questions. If you have an excellent mentoring doctor, you can get so much out of this experience.

Many premed programs require students to have a certain number of shadowing hours before they even apply to schools. This is because they want to make sure you know what to expect from a career as a doctor, nurse, midwife, or physician assistant. 

At Global Pre-Meds, we hand-pick the hospitals and doctors that we know will provide an excellent learning opportunity for you. We provide a financial incentive to our partners that helps keep standards high for the program and increases access to healthcare for the local community. 

Our  hospital doctor shadowing program in the Dominican Republic guarantees 40 hours of shadowing on hospital frontlines. We want to make sure you get the most out of your experience, so we make sure we know where your interests lie. 

Shadowing a doctor or physician helps you decide if medicine is right for you. You may even find another specialty that you like more. Shadowing allows you to head into your academic career with the confidence that you’re on the right path. 

Our program is strictly observational. If you are not a qualified healthcare professional, then you should not perform medical procedures. We want to protect your future and the patients at our partnership hospitals. When choosing a shadowing program make sure they have strong ethical guidelines for their students. 

The relationship between you and your mentor is so important to the experience. Over your two-week program you build a connection that will last. At the end of your Global Pre-Meds experience, your mentoring doctor writes you a personal letter of recommendation that speaks to your future as a healthcare professional. 

While most shadowing programs do not count towards volunteer hours, at Global Pre-Meds we offer you the chance to volunteer with local organizations on a weekly basis. That could be visiting a local orphanage or helping with an environmental clean up. We want to make sure we have a positive impact on the community you’re in. 

Additionally, our doctor shadowing program is unique because it gives you international healthcare experience. A global health perspective gives you an edge over other premed and pre health students with the same number of hours. 

Medical volunteering for premed students

Volunteering for premed students is an important act of service both for their resumes and to experience different aspects of healthcare. Volunteering is giving your time and effort to a clinic, or to the care of patients in some other way – without compensation.

While volunteering can often be a hands-on experience, it doesn’t have to be. Medical volunteering can include assisting with the function of a clinical or medical institution, such as checking people in or assisting with other administrative work. If the work you are doing is somehow in service of patients, then it counts as assisting with care. 

Volunteering usually requires a time commitment and often means working in a particular part of the hospital or clinic. If you are looking for volunteer hours you should be prepared to make and keep your commitment, taking into consideration your other classes and potential scheduling conflicts. 

Keep in mind that if you are not a certified medical professional, then you should not be providing those services, regardless of what your volunteer organization says. It’s important to follow all ethical guidelines to prevent harming yourself, patients, or jeopardizing your future career.

By volunteering to help underserved communities, you are building your empathy and knowledge base for future patient care. Whether you are a nurse, physician, midwife, or PA, you will have a diverse group of patients from different backgrounds. Exposure to different cases and patients enhances your training.

You should always check the university’s program requirements before relying on any aspect of medical volunteering for your application or resume. If your university requires volunteer hours in a specific capacity, you want to make sure you will be practicing the right skills or gaining the right kind of experience for the program. 

Volunteering versus shadowing

While understanding the difference between medical volunteering and shadowing is important, most schools require you to have both types of hours. So you won’t be wasting your time pursuing either. 

If you are just beginning your journey, a shadowing experience may be the best so that you can get an idea of what you’re truly interested in. Then your volunteer experience can be more focused on that field or specialty. 

Just remember that whatever program you choose, they should have professionals to guide you, health and safety protocols, and ethical guidelines. The safety of you and all patients should be first priority. 

We take care of everything at Global Pre-Meds. Our programs are curated by our staff and fully residential. You can focus on learning as much as you can and enjoy it without stress or anxiety.

Check out our program dates and apply today!