9 Best Ways to Gain Clinical Experience
April 30, 2019
Gaining adequate clinical experience can be one of the most challenging aspects of getting into the healthcare field. If you’ve found this article, you’ve likely heard horror stories from your peers about the difficulty in finding adequate opportunities.
Don’t fret for all is not lost! Getting the ball rolling on your career is more manageable than you think if you only know the right places to look. We’ve taken the liberty of compiling the best types of experiences necessary for finding healthcare jobs in today’s tough job market, and some of the most practical places to start your search!
Gaining clinical experience is one of the key differences that will set you apart from other job seekers who are hoping to land and secure a healthcare job. Gaining clinical experience is a vital aspect of showcasing your value and skills as a healthcare professional, and there are plenty of fantastic ways to go about securing some clinical experience with the tips we’ve outlined below. Gaining clinical experience might feel like a waste of time, but there are plenty of benefits associated with it. We’ll begin talking about what you gain by getting some clinical experience under your belt, and how that clinical experience will ultimately help you land a healthcare job.
Why Clinical Experience Is Important
Clinical experience is essential in the healthcare industry when it comes to improving care outcomes and reducing the liability for hospitals and healthcare facilities. There are also plenty of additional reasons that clinical experience is important to separate different experience levels, achieve education goals, and more.
• Education and Graduation Requirements
One of the many reasons that clinical experience is important in the healthcare industry is because it is almost always a requirement for those who are pursuing or looking to pursue a degree in higher education. For those individuals who are looking to pursue a nursing degree, clinical experience is often a mandatory requirement for a Bachelor’s degree or a Master’s degree.
This requirement is essential in making sure that every single graduate has the required amount of experience to properly care and treat patients in an active healthcare setting. Hands-on clinical experience is a critical component of making sure that the healthcare industry is as strong as it can possibly be and doing all that it can to improve patient outcomes. Hands-on critical experience is also essential in making sure that healthcare professionals are ready to respond to chaotic events because they have experience dealing with them in prior situations.
Clinical experience for education and graduation requirements is also another way that students can pursue different specialties and ensure that they’re passionate about the specialty they are concentrating in. It’s always a good idea to make sure that the specialty you’re interested in is one that you can realistically see yourself working in when the pressure and stress is on. Clinical experience is a fantastic way to evaluate whether or not you can realistically see yourself working in that specialty full-time.
Clinical experience is also a fantastic way to gain more experience than you would in a traditional classroom setting. You can only talk about nursing or healthcare in general so many times. Real-world application of that theory and knowledge is where the true experience is gained. In addition, clinical experience is important for students who are hoping to graduate because it demonstrates real-world examples of how important and effective teamwork is in the healthcare industry. The healthcare industry relies on teamwork, and it’s better for students to work out the kinks they might have in working with others in a team dynamic when they’re still learning instead of being forced to learn on the job with less leeway.
Gaining clinical experience is one of the most nerve-racking experiences for healthcare professionals who don’t have much experience. For those students who can gain that experience as a student, they also have the opportunity to ask critical questions to their mentors instead of desperately seeking answers on their own.
• Build Employer Trust
Another reason why gaining clinical experience is important is because it helps to build employer trust. The healthcare industry is a teamwork environment, and the only way patients can improve over time is through their teamwork — but it also involves a lot of individual responsibility and autonomy for each healthcare worker.
This autonomy means that the employers, hospital, healthcare facility, and healthcare company are putting a lot of trust in their employees to properly care for each patient and follow required safety standards. Gaining clinical experience is one of the best ways to showcase that an employer and healthcare organization can put their trust in you to properly care for patients and follow those safety standards.
In other words, gaining clinical experience means that you’re no longer an unknown commodity. You’ve gained valuable experience that helps highlight your reliability and ability to perform your healthcare duties as expected.
• Job Satisfaction
The next reason that gaining clinical experience is important is because it helps improve job satisfaction. One of the tentpoles to feeling satisfied in your job is whether or not you feel like you have the skills, tools, and experience needed to succeed in your role. In the healthcare industry, clinical experience is one of the most important ways to feel like you have all of the skills and experience necessary to succeed.
Working in the healthcare industry is a lot like swimming. For those individuals who don’t have any clinical experience, it’s like throwing them into the deep end of the pool when they don’t know how to swim. For those healthcare professionals who have clinical experience, using our example earlier: swimming in the deep end of the pool is easy.
• Communication Techniques Improve
One of the most important things about the healthcare industry is communication between each other and between the patients. Each patient responds to different communication methods, and clinical experience is a great way to evaluate how to properly communicate with each patient by how they respond to different communication methods. Some patients won’t be very communicative, whereas others will.
Finding the balance between the different communication techniques is one critical skill you’ll learn when you’re gaining clinical experience.
How Clinical Experience Helps You Earn a Healthcare Job
Now that you understand why gaining clinical experience is important, you might still have questions about how clinical experience can help you earn a healthcare job. In this section, we’ll break down some of the key ways that clinical experience will help you earn a healthcare job.
• Earn Employer Trust
One of the ways that clinical experience helps you earn a healthcare job is that it helps you build and earn employer trust through the candidate selection process. As we’ve highlighted earlier, employers need to put a lot of faith and trust in their employees because patients are putting that trust in them and the healthcare facility.
So much of the healthcare industry is about trying to find those healthcare professionals who know what they’re doing on the job. A lot of people will often say that they have experience in one aspect or lie about something on their resume and application to get their foot in the door. But clinical experience is something that can’t easily be faked because it’s often backed up by clinical logs, employer recommendations, professor/teacher recommendations, and more.
When you have prior clinical experience, you are no longer an unknown commodity in the healthcare industry. You’re a trusted healthcare professional that has the tools and experience needed to succeed.
• Enhance Your Resume, Job Application, and Cover Letter
The next way that clinical experience helps you get a healthcare job is that it helps enhance your resume, job application, and cover letter. Regardless of the healthcare position you’re applying for, clinical experience is a fantastic way of setting yourself apart from those job seekers who don’t have any clinical experience. Clinical experience might be the difference between getting the job or not getting the job if you’re applying for a healthcare role where you’re not directly involved in the clinical rotations. Even if you’re not involved, having an understanding of what your coworkers are going through will ultimately help the team dynamics.
• Demonstrate Real World Experience
Another fantastic benefit of gaining clinical experience is that it allows you to demonstrate real-world experience in the healthcare industry. One thing that separates the healthcare industry from others is that the industry almost always requires significant working experience for most of the positions due to the fact that nearly every position interacts with or works with patients on a daily basis.
Any clinical experience you have will help you separate yourself from those candidates who aren’t nearly as qualified to be working with patients on a daily basis.
• Highlight Teamwork and Communication Skills
As we’ve highlighted earlier, the healthcare industry requires massive amounts of teamwork and communication to be effective caregivers. When you have prior clinical experience, you know the lengths of teamwork and communication that it takes to work in the healthcare industry. The healthcare industry requires a slightly different take on teamwork and communication, as healthcare professionals are often tasked with going above and beyond to provide the most efficient and effective care.
For those healthcare professionals who have some clinical experience on their resume, cover letter, and application, they can highlight how they’ve learned those necessary teamwork and communication skills that are so vital to succeed in the healthcare industry.
• Highlight Your Commitment to Healthcare
Another benefit to gaining clinical experience and how it can help you land a healthcare job is that it helps to highlight your commitment to caring for others in the healthcare industry. The healthcare industry asks a lot of the professionals within the industry, and those who are incredibly passionate about working to serve others often succeed within the healthcare industry.
One of the biggest concerns hiring managers and recruiters have when considering potential job seekers is whether or not they’re truly passionate about working in the industry. Prior clinical experience will help bolster your claim that you truly do enjoy working with others and helping individuals live a happy and healthy lifestyle.
9 Best Ways to Gain Clinical Experience:
Now that we’ve highlighted some of the best benefits to clinical experience in why it is important and how it can help you secure a healthcare job, we’re going to detail some of the methods that you can use to gain clinical experience.
1. Paid Positions
Finding a paid position, especially if you’re a student, is the ideal scenario when to comes to gaining clinical experience before medical school. Some of the most popular positions that can also be performed while taking coursework include Pharmacy Techs, Phlebotomists, Paramedics/Emegency Medical Techinicians, Medical Scribes, Registered Nurses, and Licensed Practical Nurses.
Depending on where you’re located and the type of position you want to get to establish your clinical experience, you may be working in a hospital, small office, or government agency. This will largely depend on the opportunities available in and around your area at the time you’re seeking employment.
The good news is that these jobs offer practical clinical experience and the ability to work hours that coincide well with study hours, meaning you don’t have to take any time off to get the experience you need. The downside of this scenario is that you’ll have to both work and study simultaneously, which can be burdensome to even the best of us.
Another fantastic thing about working in a paid position to gain clinical experience is that you can earn money while you’re pursuing a higher education degree that we’ve highlighted earlier. This will help you eliminate some of the education loans you might be burdened by or give you some extra money while you’re attending school.
Working in a paid position will also offer you a chance to gain that important clinical experience and earn money at the same time. In higher education courses or programs that require clinical experience, they are often completed as volunteer hours or don’t offer a paycheck with your hard work.
Another popular route for aspiring healthcare professionals to take to gain clinical experience is shadowing a medical professional who’s already taken the path they seek to follow. Although paid positions offer monetary compensation, shadowing allows you to jump directly into the work you’re considering and get a better grasp on whether its the right path for you and your future. Unfortunately, when you shadow someone within the healthcare industry, there isn’t a guaranteed paycheck.
The primary benefits of shadowing include providing immediate clinical exposure and experiences you can draw upon in future interviews, seeing the daily life of another in your field, first-hand, low levels of responsibility, and it provides you with a “leg up” against your admissions competition. You will definitely stand out among the crowd if you’ve shadowed a nurse or physician, for example.
Another way that you can gain clinical experience from shadowing someone for a bit of time is to keep a journal about your experiences and what you’ve learned throughout the process. This journal will come in handly later on when you’re enrolling in your higher education courses or attempting to demonstrate your passion for the industry.
Another way in which you can use shadowing is to identify ways that you might be able to improve existing functions within the healthcare industry. One fantastic question for healthcare job interviews or medical program admissions is, “What would you do to improve the healthcare industry as a whole?”
When you’re shadowing someone, you get to use the observation period as a way to identify things that you would be interested in changing, and how you can bring your current skills to contribute in the healthcare industry.
3. Internships & Volunteer Work
Medical internships can be a great way to get your foot in the door with a potential employer while also providing the clinical experience necessary to move forward in your career. However, these opportunities are highly competitive as universities typically offer credits in lieu of monetary payment. With a little luck and perserverence though, you ought to be able to find one that suits your interests.
The most important thing you can do to ensure you’re in the running is to start your search early and build a relationship with the employer. Most hires are made through networked connections, so be sure to tap into any family, friends, or former coworkers you may have in the field and see what opportunities they can connect you with. If all else fails, don’t hesistate to take a volunteer position just to build your resume before the time for medical school inteviews rolls around.
Volunteering is always an option as either primary experience or to supplement shadowing or a paid position in the field. Although these opportunities are much less involved than the previously mentioned ones, volunteers are still permitted to interacting with patients and observing the professionals around them.
Volunteering can be highly effective in developing a keen understanding of the types of patients you’ll be managing in the future, as well as a stronger grasp of bedside manner. If you’re still pursing your undergraduate degree, seek out help from the university by seeing if they offer opportunities such as volunteer ambulance and EMT programs in which students may participate.
4. Studying Abroad
Studying abroad is something that you cannot pass up, given the opportunity. If you have that chance and pass it up, it is something that you’ll surely regret. Opportunities to gain clinical experience abroad can be particularly valuable when it comes to admission to medical school or an advanced healthcare program. The stories you’ll gain, the people you’ll meet, and the cultural perspective that you’ll gain will set you apart from others seeking admission, increasing your chances of landing a spot substantially.
Study abroad programs are typically managed by the university or college you attend, so if this is an opportunity that interests you, start there first. Other places in which you may be able to find other programs include sites such as GoAbroad.com and GoOverseas.com.
Studying abroad might also give you an opportunity to work in a variety of different healthcare experiences because healthcare isn’t the same around the globe. Healthcare is practiced differently around the globe, and often times individuals in foreign countries will have different ways of approaching problems. Gaining clinical experience in a foreign country through a study abroad opportunity is a great way of broadening your skillset and opening your eyes to some unique ways to caring for patients that a domestic education or volunteer program might not offer.
5. Research Experience
Another opportunity that will be largely available through your university is research experience. The advancement of healthcare hinges heavily on research to discover new treatments and innovate current ones. If research sounds like an aspect of medicine in which you’d like to work, start first by searching for programs your school offers. However, most programs are held over the summer, so you’ll have to make adequate accommodations and plan well in advance before pursuing one.
If you fall short in discovering any research-based clinical experience opportunities sponsored by your university, search for other medical centers, laboratories, and research facilities that would be convenient for you and connect with them early. Be sure to get the direct contact information of the individual hiring and build a relationship with them. Hopefully you’ll be working alongside them soon!
6. Consider Primary Care Options
Another fantastic way to gain clinical experience is to consider working in primary care in a support role. There are plenty of supporting roles that you could pursue in a primary cary facility or organization and gain clinical and medical experience that you can use throughout your career.
Primary care is becoming an increasingly important part of the healthcare industry as the baby boomer generation ages and begins to seek new care in numbers never seen before. As this generation ages and begins to attend doctor appointments with more regularity, these healthcare roles will become a vital aspect and opportunity for passionate individuals to gain clinical experience and medical experience. Whether it’s assisting with the day to day routine, or taking on more responsibility in the healthcare environment, there is a role for everyone in a primary care office or organization. In addition, getting hired in these roles is a lot less stringent than other positions or methods we’ve outlined to gain clinical experience.
7. Participate Actively
One thing we’ve highlighted throughout the best ways to gain clinical experience is to be a keen observer. This keen observation is useful in making sure that you gain all the knowledge you need in the healthcare industry, but you should also find ways to participate at every turn. To gain valuable clinical experience, you have to find ways to assist others in the healthcare industry and actively engage and participate in new opportunities as they arise.
If you’re passionate about a role and want to figure out if the role is meant for you, step up and ask if they can use some assistance or if it would be ok for you to spend a couple hours during the day to learn a bit more about the role and help out. This way you’re getting your foot in the door and making it known that you’re looking to gain some vital experience within the healthcare industry and clinical environment.
8. Work With Underserved Communities
The next opportunity to gain clinical experience is to find ways to serve and work with underserved communities. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who decide to skip attending the physician regularly or cannot afford regular healthcare checkups. This means that these individuals and communities often have health issues or suffer from chronic conditions that they cannot overcome because of their financial status, transportation options, or the community in which they live.
One fantastic way to separate yourself from others and to stand out as the most qualified candidate in future jobs is to showcase how you gained clinical experience in non-traditional settings. Serving and caring for patients in underserved communities is most certainly a non-traditional clinical setting. Because underserved communities often have different challenges associated with them, you’ll also gain unique exposure to different patients and cultures that you otherwise wouldn’t have much exposure to in a traditional setting.
In addition, underserved communities will often always have openings for people who are interested in gaining vital clinical experience. These underserved communities often have limited access to most resources that traditional settings offer, so you’ll also gain an insight and key look into how communities with fewer resources have to care and assist patients. You can leverage this in your future job search or medical school admission process because you’ll have a much different take on your clinical experience.
9. Consider Different Clinical Settings
The next way to gain clinical experience is to consider different types of clinical settings. Most people typically focus on traditional outpatient clinical settings. One way that you can gain comprehensive clinical experience is by evaluating different healthcare settings to gain experience.
One way that you can do this is by working in inpatient clinical settings. In doing so, you can gain more experience from a different perspective than the common outpatient roles you would typically find in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
There are plenty of fantastic ways to gain clinical experience that you might not have considered before. Clinical experience is essential to gaining new skills and tools that you can use throughout your healthcare career to make you a more efficient and effective care giver. If you’re looking for ways to separate yourself from other job seekers in your healthcare job search, then gaining some clinical experience is a fantastic way to do that and highlight how passionate you are about working in the industry and assisting others.
( Article / Content Updated 2019 )