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An Atlantis student outside of the hospital where she will be shadowing (Genoa, Italy, 2019).

Applying to Med/PA School

Clinical Experience Examples: What Works for My Pre-Med Peers

Alexia profile

About Alexia

Alexia Katsaros is a Purdue graduate (’21) and a pre-medical student enjoying a gap year on the Atlantis admissions team. As an undergraduate, she majored in psychology and minored in biology and sociology. In the summer of 2019, she shadowed doctors at KAT hospital when she journeyed to Athens, Greece through the Atlantis shadow abroad program.

Clinical experience is an important part of any pre-med’s journey. It can solidify their desire to be a healthcare professional or inspire them to pursue a particular specialty within their field. In any case, clinical experience is a must for creating a well-rounded application. That’s why it is so crucial that you understand the types of clinical experiences out there and the ways they can benefit you.

Paid Clinical Work

Today, there are many types of clinical experiences available for pre-meds. But it can sometimes be hard to identify what opportunities can be considered ‘clinical.’ There are two main branches of clinical experience: paid and volunteering/shadowing. Paid positions usually require some level of skill or training and can include anything from scribing to phlebotomy. As the daughter of a general surgeon, I was able to take up a working position at my father’s office for several years. This position involved charting, making phone calls, scheduling, greeting patients, taking vitals, and sterilizing equipment. Obviously, my situation is not representative of the average pre-med student, but I’m talking about my personal experience in paid clinical work to highlight just how much it can do for you. In my case, after becoming especially familiar with medical equipment, I was able to scrub in and assist in circulating on OR days. This is a major talking point I could use during my application process; medical schools love interpersonal experience and hands-on clinical work. That said, clinical experience of any kind can open so many doors for you. 

You might begin with a greeting position at a private practice’s front office, but if you make clear that you’re willing to expand your skill repertoire, you could find yourself moving up the office hierarchy. In my experience, I found that calling or emailing local clinics and private practices works best. Call to get quick information, like if there are any positions available. Email in your resume and your schedule. Most physicians are happy to work with pre-med students. This same approach can work for hospitals in your area, though I have found that hospitals can also be great places for the second type of clinical experience: volunteering and shadowing.

Unpaid Clinical Volunteering and Shadowing

Unpaid volunteering and shadowing does not usually require any formal training, which can save you some time and resources, but it does come at the cost of a potential source of income. Most pre-med students believe that the greatest downside of volunteering or shadowing is that you don’t typically interact directly with any patients. However, non-paid clinical experiences also have a unique upside. You can observe, firsthand, the inner workings of hospitals and clinics without having to navigate the pressures and tasks that accompany paid work. This is HUGE. Instead of being confined to a specific area of a hospital, you can actively follow the doctors as they make their rounds. When I was shadowing through Atlantis in Athens, Greece, I was able to do exactly this. Some days, I would closely follow a thoracic surgeon, Dr. Nicholas Kohilás. As he went through his rounds, he would update us (the other Atlantis participants in my group, the medical students, and nurses) about the condition of each of his patients. I saw a young man with cat scratch fever, a woman recovering from a tummy tuck, and a man with an inguinal hernia. I was able to learn about everything from the nature of hemorrhaging to the importance and components of IV fluids. On other days, I would observe entire surgeries: a knee replacement, a leg amputation, an 8-hour mitral valve replacement, and a brain tumor removal. At the time, I was still unsure as to what I wanted to specialize in (and, in many ways, I still am!), but observing those types of surgeries really helped me understand what I valued in medicine: the balance between life-saving procedures and aesthetic/functional harmony.  

Key Takeaways of Clinical Experiences

The key to being a strong applicant is balance. While you’re thinking about what clinical experience you’d like to participate in, make sure that you give equal consideration to both paid and unpaid positions, along with the pros and cons I mentioned above. If you’re considering a strong abroad shadowing program, check out Atlantis. As I highlighted before, the benefits for the different types of clinical experience can be unique, so use this to your advantage. And, of course, always make sure to find the right fit!


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Two Atlantis alumni admitted to Top 5 MD programs wrote our widely read medical school admissions guidebook guidebook — download yours.

Our Alumni Enter Great Medical Schools

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John Daines

  • Atlantis '17
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Zoey Petitt

  • Atlantis '17
  • U. of Arizona '18
  • Duke MD '23
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Yong-hun Kim

  • Atlantis '17
  • Stanford '19
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Megan Branson

  • Atlantis '18
  • U. of Montana '19
  • U. of Washington MD '24
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Sarah Emerick

  • Atlantis '19
  • Eckerd College '20
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Snow Nwankwo

  • Atlantis '19
  • Catholic U. of America '21
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Tiffany Hu

  • Atlantis '16
  • U. of Maryland '17
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Lauren Cox

  • Atlantis '18
  • Louisiana Tech '20
  • U. of Arkansas MD '24
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Kayla Riegler

  • Atlantis '18
  • U. of Kentucky '20
  • U. of Kentucky MD '24

About Atlantis

Atlantis is the leader in pre-health shadowing and clinical experience, offering short-term programs (1-10 weeks) over academic breaks for U.S. pre-health undergraduates. Medical schools want 3 things: (1)healthcare exposure, (2)GPA/MCAT, and (3)certain competencies. Atlantis gives you a great version of (1), frees you to focus on (2), and cultivates/shows (3) to medical school admissions committees.

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Watch Video: The Atlantis Shadowing Experience and How it Helps In Your Med/PA Admissions Future

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Cover of the Medical School Admissions Guide.
Two Atlantis alumni admitted to Top 5 MD programs wrote our widely read medical school admissions guidebook — download yours.