Shadowing a Doctor

May 20, 2014

The Importance of Clinical Exposure for Medical Students

Students who are contemplating a career in medicine are often advised to get some clinical exposure before they even put in their application for medical school. Does it really matter? How does it help?

Clinical exposure does help in a number of ways, both professionally as well as personally.

Professional Advantages to Medical Exposure

Student Emily before surgery! It’s true, clinical exposure looks great on your application for medical school. It’s an unwritten requirement and many schools may not openly acknowledge it but having actual experience in the medical field is a strong deciding factor. The reasoning is simple really. If you’ve actually had firsthand clinical experience, it would mean that you’ve seen the best as well as the worst face of medicine and despite that you are still determined to become a doctor. It also shows your commitment and passion to medicine and indicates that you have been serious about the profession for a long time and you’ve already started working towards that goal. That’s exactly what medical schools look for in their students and this can give your application just the boost it needs.

Personal Advantages to Medical Exposure

Clinical exposure will let you discover the field of medicine much better than just reading about it. It may sound surprising but several students get into this field because they grow up watching inspiring medical television shows. Some are idealists who want to change the world and save millions of lives. While these are very noble goals, the harsh fact is, medicine is a tough field that calls for you to make complex decisions even though they may not lead to the desired result. There is no background music and there may not always be a happy ending. Clinical exposure will open your eyes to this reality and help you decide whether this field is really for you. Instead of going through 7 long years of medical school and then realising that you aren’t fit to be in this profession, getting some clinical exposure early on will save you time and money.

It is also a great way for you to discover the number of possible specialties and sub-specialties within the different fields that you may not have been aware of earlier. As you get exposed to different specialisations, you will learn more about your strengths and weaknesses, giving you lots to think about with regards to which specialty may be the best fit for you and which you are definitely not suited for. You will be exposed to the long hours and the emotional highs and lows that come with the package.

Where Do You Start If You Are Looking To Get Some Clinical Exposure

The best place to start is at the hospitals or medical clinics in your neighbourhood. However, do keep in mind that all hospitals are not open to having pre-med students shadowing their physicians and those that do are likely to have a waiting list so don’t get disheartened by a few refusals.

Another option is to apply to organisations that facilitate medical placements in developing countries. These placements offer you a completely different type of clinical exposure that’s far removed from the sophisticated kind of medicine that’s practiced back home. From a professional as well as the personal perspective, medical placements in third world countries far overshadow any kind of clinical experiences you can obtain in the UK.