5 Best Ways to Gain Clinical Experience

In Career Advice, Education, Job Search
November 16, 2016

Gain Clinical Experience

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!

5 Best Ways 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, licensed practical nurses, and others.

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 conicide 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.

2. Shadowing

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.

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 physiican, for example.

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 leiu 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 into 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.

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!

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