It is essential you gain clinical experiences relevant to your intended profession.
First, you need knowledge for yourself. Each of the health professions is uniquely demanding and will require great sacrifices. You need to know what is in store for you if you pursue this profession, and that it is for you.
Second, when you apply to a health professional school, you will need to be convincing when you articulate your motivation and goals. A successful applicant will have a consistent record of exploring his or her interest.
Where to Begin?
Strong Memorial Hospital (through the Friends of Strong Program) and other area hospitals provide ample opportunity for volunteering. Some paid positions are also available at Strong (consult the Student Employment Office for details). Consider working at area nursing homes, halfway houses, hospices and other centers where care is provided. Many UR students interested in medicine train as EMTs and volunteer with MERT and/or local volunteer ambulance services.
If volunteering during the academic year does not fit your schedule, do so during the summer, either here or in your hometown. The great advantage of working as a volunteer is that you set your own schedule. You may earn money at a full-time summer job and devote some number of evening or weekend hours to your volunteer work. Health-related volunteer opportunities of all kinds are available through the Community Service Network (Rochester Center for Community Leadership, 500/510 Wilson Commons). The health professions advisers in Lattimore 312 can also provide you with some additional ideas, as can the Career Center.
How Much Is Enough?
Some programs, such as veterinary schools or physician assistant programs, require a minimum number of clinical hours as a pre-requisite for admission. Still, you should understand that clinical involvement is not something you can “check off” the way you complete a pre-requisite course. At the time you apply to your chosen professional schools, you should have a well-developed record of interest in your chosen profession.
Clinical Experience Abroad
Many students look to gain clinical experience in another country. While this can be valuable, particularly in comparing and contrasting healthcare delivery between the U.S. and other countries of the world, students should be aware of the "Guidelines for Premedical Students Providing Patient Care During Clinical Experiences Abroad" as described by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). There are ethical questions associated with students performing procedures that might be legal in an international setting, but would not be legal for them to perform here in the U.S. Students should be prepared to answer these questions in a medical school interview. The University of Minnesota Health Careers Center has prepared a series of workshops, entitled "Global Ambassadors for Patient Safety" dedicated to this topic, and we recommend students utilize this resource to learn more.