Clinical Experience

Clinical experiences are an important way to explore the healthcare field and demonstrate ongoing interest in the profession. Clinical experience can come in a variety of roles and opportunities. Click on the drop-down menu below to read about obtaining clinical experience in various health professions.

What is clinical experience?

Clinical experiences should include direct interaction with practitioners & patients but do not need to be at an advanced medical level.  Students may gain clinical experience through a summer work position, part-time work during the academic year, a co-op, a full-time position after graduation, or volunteering in a healthcare setting.

Schools typically do not require a certain number of clinical hours prior to matriculation. Rather, it is what you learn from your clinical experience and how you articulate this on your application that demonstrate your readiness for medical training.

Some examples of clinical experience include:

  • Emergency Room Tech
  • Emergency medical technician (EMT), paramedic
  • Certified nursing assistant (CNA)
  • Patient care assistant
  • Medical assistant
  • Patient care technician
  • Hospice Volunteer
  • Hospital Scribe
  • Professional Caretaker (for a non-relative)

Read more about obtaining clinical experience on the AAMC website HERE.

 

Obtaining Certification

Some students choose to obtain clinical experience through roles that require certification. Please note that the value in this training is not receiving the certification, but rather, it is in the clinical experience that you gain from a position that allows you to use the certification.

EMT:

CNA:

Medical Assistant:

Most medical assistants have a postsecondary education certificate. Others enter the occupation with a high school diploma and learn through on-the-job training (BLS).

 

Shadowing a Healthcare Professional

Clinical experience should also include shadowing hours with a licensed practitioner in the field to which you aspire. It is the quality of your shadowing experience, rather than number of shadowing hours, that allow you articulate your understanding of the profession. Shadowing also gives the opportunity to get to know a practicing professional, gain mentoring, and a letter of evaluation.

Before you begin your Shadow experience, review the AAMC’s Guidelines for Clinical Shadowing Experiences. You can also learn more about preparing to shadow a doctor on the AAMC website HERE.

While in-person shadowing experience with a licensed practitioner in the field to which you aspire is necessary, additional, virtual shadowing can also be of value. Consider beginning with virtual shadowing experience by visiting prehealthshadowing.com.

What is clinical experience?

Clinical experiences should include direct interaction with practitioners & patients but do not need to be at an advanced level.  Students may gain clinical experience through a summer work position, part-time work during the academic year, a co-op, a full-time position after graduation, or volunteering in a healthcare setting.

Schools typically do not require a certain number of clinical hours prior to matriculation. Rather, it is what you learn from your clinical experience and how you articulate this on your application that demonstrate your readiness for training in dental medicine.

Shadowing a Dentist

Many dental programs require shadowing hours prior to applying. While the number of shadowing hours required is specific to each program, we recommend at least 75-100 total hours of shadowing, including 25 hours shadowing a general dentist. It is important to research the dental schools you are interested in applying to in order to understand each program’s unique requirements.

Ultimately, though, it is the quality of your shadowing experience, rather than number of shadowing hours, that allow you articulate your understanding of the profession. Shadowing also gives the opportunity to get to know a practicing professional, gain mentoring, and a letter of evaluation.

Learn more about preparing for a shadowing opportunity with a dentist on the ADEA website HERE.

While in-person shadowing experience with a licensed practitioner in the field to which you aspire is necessary, additional, virtual shadowing can also be of value. Consider beginning with virtual shadowing experience by visiting prehealthshadowing.com.

What is clinical experience?

Clinical experiences should include direct interaction with practitioners & patients but do not need to be at an advanced level.  Students may gain clinical experience through a summer work position, part-time work during the academic year, a co-op, a full-time position after graduation, or volunteering in a healthcare setting. Some examples could be an Optometric assistant (if not just a clerical position) or an Ophthalmology technician.

Optometry schools typically do not require a certain number of clinical hours prior to matriculation. Rather, it is what you learn from your clinical experience and how you articulate this on your application that demonstrate your readiness for training.

Shadowing an Optometrist

Some optometry programs require (or strongly recommend) a minimum number of shadowing hours with an optometrist. It is important to research the schools you are interested in applying to in order to understand each program’s unique requirements.

It is the quality of your shadowing experience, rather than number of shadowing hours, that allow you articulate your understanding of the profession. Shadowing also gives the opportunity to get to know a practicing professional, gain mentoring, and a letter of evaluation.

Learn more about preparing for a shadowing opportunity with an optometrist here:

While in-person shadowing experience with a licensed practitioner in the field to which you aspire is necessary, additional, virtual shadowing can also be of value. Consider beginning with virtual shadowing experience by visiting prehealthshadowing.com.

What is clinical experience?

Clinical experiences should include direct interaction with practitioners & patients but do not need to be at an advanced level.  Students may gain clinical experience through a summer work position, part-time work during the academic year, a co-op, a full-time position after graduation, or volunteering in a healthcare setting.

Schools typically do not require a certain number of clinical hours prior to matriculation. Rather, it is what you learn from your clinical experience and how you articulate this on your application that demonstrate your readiness for training in podiatric medicine.

Shadowing a podiatrist

Many podiatry programs require shadowing hours prior to applying and, subsequently, a letter of recommendation from a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) verifying this experience. It is the quality of your shadowing experience, rather than number of shadowing hours, that allow you articulate your understanding of the profession and obtain a strong mentor relationship with a DPM.

While in-person shadowing experience with a licensed practitioner in the field to which you aspire is necessary, additional, virtual shadowing can also be of value. Consider beginning with virtual shadowing experience by finding a mentor at stepintopodiatry.com or visiting prehealthshadowing.com.

What is clinical experience?

Patient Care Experiences:

Many PA programs require an approximate number of hours of direct Patient Care Experiences (PCE) prior to applying. These positions require you to have some level of responsibility for a patient’s care. Often, these must be paid positions and not volunteer-based. It is strongly recommended students obtain 2,000+ hours of hands-on PCE hours prior to applying.

Examples of direct patient care positions include, but are not limited to:

  • Emergency Room Tech
  • Emergency medical technician (EMT) or paramedic
  • Certified nursing assistant (CNA)
  • Patient care assistant
  • Medical assistant
  • Patient care technician

*Be mindful that some position hours (i.e. EMT transports) may not count toward your PCE hours, as PA schools do not see these roles as 100% hands-on patient care experiences. What matters most is the quality of the experience and the job tasks involved; the position title is less important.

Students should review individual schools’ websites for more information on their clinical prerequisites as they vary greatly program-to-program. Some examples:

Health Care Experiences:

Schools typically do not require a certain number of Health Care Experiences (HCE) prior to matriculation. However, HCE in addition to PCE will contribute to a competitive application. Health Care Experiences include both paid or un-paid roles where you interact with patients, but are not directly responsible for their care.

Examples of health care experiences include, but are not limited to:

  • Nursing Home Volunteer
  • Hospital Administrator
  • Hospital Food Services

Ultimately, it is what you learn from your cumulative clinical experiences (PCE + HCE), and how you articulate this on your application, that demonstrate your readiness for training in physician assistant studies.

 

Obtaining Certification

Some students choose to obtain clinical experience through roles that require certification. Please note that the value in this training is not receiving the certification, but rather, it is in the clinical experience that you gain from a position that allows you to use the certification.

EMT:

CNA:

Medical Assistant:

Most medical assistants have a postsecondary education certificate. Others enter the occupation with a high school diploma and learn through on-the-job training (BLS).

 

Shadowing a Physician Assistant

Clinical experience should also include shadowing hours with a licensed Physician Assistant. It is the quality of your shadowing experience, rather than number of shadowing hours, that allow you articulate your understanding of the profession. Shadowing also gives the opportunity to get to know a practicing professional, gain mentoring, and a letter of evaluation.

Learn more about shadowing a PA in Massachusetts HERE.

While in-person shadowing experience with a licensed practitioner in the field to which you aspire is necessary, additional, virtual shadowing can also be of value. Consider beginning with virtual shadowing experience by visiting prehealthshadowing.com.

What is clinical experience?

Competitive veterinary school applicants typically have engaged in clinical animal experience. It is suggested that students engage in more than one area of veterinary medicine, with in-depth exploration of at least one. Students may gain animal experience through a summer work position, part-time work during the academic year, a co-op, a full-time position after graduation, or volunteering in an animal shelter, clinic, or hospital.

Examples of animal experience include, but are not limited to:

  • Working in a veterinary practice/veterinary hospital
  • Experience with livestock
  • Working on a farm
  • Breeding/Showing
  • Working at a zoo or aquarium

*Students should review individual schools’ websites for more information on their animal experience pre-requisites as they vary greatly program-to-program.

You can learn more about gaining experience on the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) website HERE.

 

Shadowing a Veterinarian

Clinical experience should also include shadowing hours with a veterinarian. It is the quality of your shadowing experience, rather than number of shadowing hours, that allow you articulate your understanding of the profession. Shadowing also gives the opportunity to get to know a practicing professional, gain mentoring, and a letter of evaluation.

While in-person shadowing experience with a licensed practitioner in the field to which you aspire is necessary, additional, virtual shadowing can also be of value. Consider beginning with virtual shadowing experience by visiting prehealthshadowing.com.