Clinical Experiences – The Earlier, the Better

Updated: Nov 28, 2019

Medical school prepares you to take care of patients. If you have a problem caring for sick people, you won’t do well in medical school or residency. Clinical experiences (also called patient exposure) are recorded on your AMCAS application when you apply to medical schools. It’s one of the areas medical admissions committees look at to determine the most qualified candidates for their entering medical school class.

What constitutes a “clinical experience?”


Patient exposure will be any activity where you are directly involved with the physical, mental, and/or emotional health of another individual. There are many ways to engage with patients in this way. AMCAS allows you to categorize these experiences as “paid” or “non-paid.”

How do I get involved?


Most of the opportunities to directly care for a patient will require training to attain that role. Examples of paid positions include emergency medical technician (EMT), phlebotomist, physical therapy technician, certified nurse assistant, surgical technician, nurse, EKG technician, medical assistant, athletic trainer. These roles will require official certification virtually everywhere. There are some exceptions that may allow you to get on-the-job training. Always find out if this free on-the-job training is possible at the locations you’d want to work before pursuing expensive certification courses.

Because these courses are expensive and time-consuming, it is ideal to start this very early in your undergrad career. Choosing a school break like summer to save up for and complete training will allow you to maximize your time and funds during the school year.

Some positions will allow you to care for patients without completing expensive training programs. Examples include physical therapy assistant, hospice care volunteer, orderly and patient care technician (some hospitals may require certification). You can get creative in this area. As long as you are involved directly in the mental or physical health of the patient, it could theoretically be anything. I’ve known students who volunteered at the mental hospital, worked as mentors for troubled teens, or coached families with troubled teens.

Start early, and rack up a lot of hours from 1-2 clinical experiences. Get at least 2-3 different longitudinal experiences throughout your undergrad career. Ensure that at least 1 of the experiences involves hands-on experience. I had my application reviewed by a medical school representative shortly before submitting my primary and I was told that I needed to have clinical experiences physically contacting a patient (for example: placing an IV, helping them through physical therapy, etc.). Make sure you have some hands-on patient exposure hours

KEY Points:

  • Only activities involving direct physical, mental, or emotional care for a patient constitute Clinical experience/Patient exposure hours

  • There are various paid and non-paid positions

  • Many positions require formal certification (check for courses near you)

  • Start early

  • Make sure you have hands-on experience

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