Finding pre-med clinical experience while you are balancing MCAT prep and studying for exams in a normal year is challenging. Doing this during COVID-19 can feel next to impossible, especially when clinical experience is extremely hard to find given extra safety and health precautions at doctors’ offices and hospitals.
Medical schools are aware of challenges experienced by students during COVID-19 and that your clinical experiences may not be as long term due to these new concerns.
While there is likely to be more understanding about the limitations that the pandemic is putting on applicants, medical schools still want to see some clinical experience on your applications to ensure you have explored the field you are committing to. Also, having these types of experiences yourself is incredibly important so you can make the best decision to continue your journey to medical school.
How to Gain Clinical Experience for Med School Applications During COVID-19
Worry not—it’s not impossible to get clinical experience amid COVID-19!
1. Tap your network.
We recommend that you begin by reaching out to your network of friends, family, and physicians for ways that you can help or shadow to gain valuable clinical experience for your medical school applications. A good start may be to call your childhood pediatrician or family physician and inquire as to whether you could set up a time to interview them over the phone or shadow them for the day if their practice allows.
2. Research telemedicine opportunities.
It may also be helpful to look into possible telemedicine opportunities at the hospitals and clinics near you. In the COVID-19 era, many physicians are using telemedicine to complete follow-up visits and triage patients that need to be seen in person. You may be able to observe these visits remotely.
3. Volunteer to make phone calls for a doctor's office or research lab.
Volunteering to make phone calls for offices or clinical research to patients will allow you to gain valuable skills in talking to patients.
4. Take on an organized volunteer experience.
There are several organizations that are still accepting volunteers. Read on for our top picks!
Pre-Med Clinical Volunteer Opportunities During COVID-19:
- American Red Cross – The American Red Cross is always looking for volunteers. They have opportunities to help at blood banks, shelters, and even offer some remote opportunities.
- Crisis Text Line – Crisis Text Line is a free text line for people in crisis. Volunteers or crisis counselors help answer text messages. Training is provided and if your schedule is tight, most of the work occurs between 10pm and 6am ET.
- Feeding America – Feeding America’s mission is to help people find food through food banks in the United States. You can find local volunteer opportunities at food banks in your community.
- Habitat for Humanity – Habitat for Humanity helps build affordable housing for families in need. There are a lot of different ways to get involved with Habitat for Humanity including helping to build homes, donating, and shopping.
- Other local opportunities near you – There may be other opportunities to help near you. You can use websites like justserve.org or volunteermatch.org to find ways to volunteer in your community.
How Many Volunteer Hours Do I Need on My Med School Application?
In a typical year, 100 volunteer hours is the bench mark med schools are looking for on applications. While you won't be expected to reach that number during COVID-19, the AMA states that med schools want to see that volunteering and exposure to the clinical environment wasn't an afterthought.