April 8, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
Once you start medical school, you will find that it is one big blur of lectures, projects to complete, lab practicals, clinical practice and exams. Trying to achieve any semblance of work-life balance in such a scenario can be almost impossible.
In medical school, free time will suddenly become an alien concept as you find your time is no longer your own. Sacrificing your leisure time is something you will have to do if you want to succeed in medical school. There will be many missed family occasions, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and even weddings of close family members as you stay back to catch up with lectures or finish yet another assignment. What’s more, this could go on for the next 5 to 7 years or even more depending on your choice of specialty.
The only way to recharge and gear up for this hectic phase is by taking a gap year between your undergraduate graduation and the commencement of medical school. A gap year gives incoming medical students some breathing space before they embark upon this seemingly endless grind.
While you should absolutely use this time to do something you really enjoy, you should not make the mistake of whiling away your time. Use the gap year to learn something new, gain more knowledge in something you already know, engage in different challenging and stimulating activities that expand your mind, strengthen your portfolio and contribute to society in some way.
Volunteering at hospitals, aged homes, orphanages or any kind of healthcare setting are productive ways to pass the time between college graduation and enrolment into medical school. Spending time shadowing a doctor is another way to make good use of your gap year especially if you have not yet sent in your application to medical school.
Admissions authorities at all medical schools always tend to favour applicants who have spent time in any kind of healthcare-related activity. It shows them that you are sincere and enthusiastic about a career in this field. It also tells them that you are fully aware of what you are getting into so your chances of dropping out of medical school are low. For a medical school, there’s nothing worse than one of their students dropping out mid-way through the programme as it would mean a seat gone to waste that could otherwise have been put to good use by another student.
More importantly, volunteering and physician shadowing give you a glimpse of health care in practice and help you explore this field more closely so you can make an informed decision either to pursue this career path or not.
If you’d like a more comprehensive first-hand medical experience consider doing a medical placement in a developing country. Unlike shadowing and volunteering where your actual interactions with patients as well as physicians may be limited, medical placements give you the opportunity to work closely with patients and medical professionals in a variety of challenging healthcare settings. Another benefit of doing such a medical placement is that it gives you the opportunity to explore new countries and indulge in adventures that you would otherwise never have dreamt about.
The memories of your work and fun experiences and adventures during your gap year will stand you in good stead during the gruelling years in medical school so make the most of it and make your gap year work for you.