Is High School Too Early to Get Clinical Experience?

Eye-opening hospital work experience
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For many potential premedical students, the dream to become a doctor often begins to percolate at a young age. Children play hospital and “fix” their stuffed animals and each other.  As students enter high school, those whose interest remains start to get more serious about pursuing premedical studies.  High school is an excellent time to get some hands-on clinical experience in order to determine if a medical career is worth your continued attention.

A common clinical experience that many a high school student has is volunteering in a hospital.  Shadowing a physician and comforting patients are great ways to observe the real world of medicine.  You’ll learn about doctor-patient interactions and how to communicate with patients who will appreciate your efforts as a young adult interested in pursuing a medical career.   The longer you can volunteer in a hospital setting, the more you will see a variety of patients and interact with different doctors.  Though you are unlikely to find yourself in a situation where a patient in is a critical or disturbing physical condition, the experiences you’ll encounter as a high school volunteer will act as a foundation for your future clinical experiences as an undergraduate premedical student.

A day of hospital ward rounds!You may also be able to obtain a summer position working in a medical research lab at your local university.  These are highly coveted positions that require an application, essay, and interview for admission.  You may even receive a stipend for your lab work. In these clinical experiences, you will work under the supervision of a mentor who will show you the ropes in the lab and allow you to gain hands-on experience working in the medical research field. You’ll have the opportunity to write about your findings, explore issues related to ethics and procedure, and make those crucial networking connections that will allow you to gain a leg up on your medical school competition. Due to your young age, you’ll be held to the regulations of child labor laws, so you’ll be legally protected from any medical lab taking advantage of your enthusiasm and curiosity.

If you are unable to obtain clinical experience on your own through volunteer work or a university summer program, you may want to start a health professions organization at your school. HOSA-Future Health Professionals is a high school-based extracurricular club which will allow you to gain experience through your local hospital, performing both clinical work and presentations. HOSA offers national exposure to its members along with major scholarship opportunities.

It seems more important than ever to start thinking about your future career at a younger age.  By high school, you are strongly encouraged to begin exploring careers.  If you have an interest in a medical career, seeking out these clinical experiences will help you to determine whether patient care is right for you. If it is, you can build upon your high school experiences and gain access to more involved clinical work. If it’s not, the clinical experience will at least provide you with a deeper understanding of the world of adult work. — Post by Madelaine Kingsbury.

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