Pre-Med :: Clinical Experience and Jobs – Part 3

Finally, I am finishing this three part series on pre-med jobs for clinical experience.  Check out Part 1 and Part 2.

In this part of the series I will be talking about more clinical jobs for pre-med clinical experience.

Dietary – This is an ok part-time job that can help get your foot in the door at almost any hospital.  Ideally, you’d like to work in a position that delivers food or food trays directly to the patient’s rooms.  This will not always be able to happen.  Some hospitals have dietary workers who bring the food directly to patients.  Others have the nursing staff come get the food carts from the dietary workers, and the nursing staff brings the food to the patients.  You may want to inquire about this when applying for the position.  This job surprisingly has quite a few benefits.  First, hospitals are ok with hiring high school students for these jobs.  This is great because if you have an early interest in medicine, you can get your foot in the door right away.  Next, this is a great connection job.  Everyone in the hospital eats (obviously).  So, if the food service department is set up right you may see everyone from doctors and nurses, to housekeeping and administration, to patients.  This is the big plus for the pre-med student. As the old saying goes, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”  In addition, you’re always around the food.  I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a huge plus.  When I was hungry and working in the food service, there was always extra food around that was going to get thrown away even though no-one had touched it.  It seems like a small perk, but it’s probably one of my favorite jobs for that reason alone. Finally, the hours are good (4 or 8 hour shifts), patients love to see you, and there is virtually no training.  The drawbacks are obvious.  First, you will not get the patient exposure that the other jobs provide like EMT, phleb, CNA, volunteering, ect.  Also, you don’t get to see what anyone is doing.  By that I mean, you’re not going to get to see the doctors interact with nurses or patients, nurses with patients, patients with techs, or any real patient interactions.  To sum up, dietary workers are pretty much the bottom of the medical totem pole.  Finally, you work with food.  This is a perk, but at the same time a drawback.  It’s not the poop and vomit that CNAs work with, but it’s not the fun adrenaline rush either.

Pros: Patients like you, can make connections, start in high school, work around the food
Cons: Not much patient interaction, looked down on by medical staff, work with food

Research (Basic Science and Clinical) – I am only familiar with the basic science research, so this section will be based on that.  This is a great route to learn the science of medicine.  This route will take you away from the art of medicine and seeing patients, but it will help you explore a certain area of medicine.  This route will definitely help you with medical school admissions.  Medical schools love to see that you did some research to help further the field of medicine. Lots of medical schools pay stipends to students who want to do research.  Also, doing research will help you decide if medicine is right for you.  Maybe you’re destined for the PhD?  Or if you can’t make up your mind, maybe the MD/PhD route is in your future? This route is the most intellectually challenging and stimulating route for the pre-med student.  By doing research with a PhD or MD mentor, you are helping answer the big questions in science like: How does addiction change the brain?  Why do we sleep?  How can we cure breast cancer?  How can we cure any cancer?  How can we prevent another H1N1?  What can we do to help people with spinal injuries walk again?  How do we cure diabetes?  These are just some of the big questions being asked at my small medical school.  Imagine what kind of things scientists are studying.  But this route isn’t perfect.  It requires a very large time commitment if you want to get anything published.  Research takes lots of time to answer very small precise questions.  If it was quick, we’d have the cure to cancer and AIDS by now.  The process is slow.  Also, not much patient interaction.  In fact, I had no interaction with patients at all during my research, so it may seem far away from that ‘save-a-life’ world of a doctor.  

Pros: Intellectually challenging, med school admissions, PhD route?
Cons: Time commitment, no patient interactions 

Other things you can do include: volunteering, medical receptionist, transcriptionist, chart filer, and patient transporter.  These are all fine, and get you involved with patients.  I personally think that any EMT, CNA, or phlebotomy experience will trump these but I have not done any volunteering at the hospital, receptionist, transcriptionist, filing, or transporter work.  I think these would be great first steps similar to dietary.  This will allow you to get your feet wet, learn the lingo, and see how the healthcare field works.

I hope you enjoyed my little series.  If you have any questions for me feel free to email.