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Atlantis students walking through the hospital where they will be shadowing (Genoa, Italy, 2019).

Applying to Med/PA School

Clinical Experience for Medical School: One Pre-Med’s Ultimate Guide

Marissa profile

About Marissa

Marissa is a recent graduate of Clemson University where she received her B.S. in Health Sciences. During the summer of 2019, Marissa participated in the Atlantis shadowing program in Trento, Italy, and now works as an Alumni Representative with the company. She is currently applying to medical school where she hopes to become a primary care physician.

As a pre-med student, gaining clinical experience is crucial to building your passions and perspective for medicine. Perhaps more importantly, having an adequate amount of clinical experience is an important component of medical applications. Since there are so many clinical opportunities to choose from, it can often feel overwhelming trying to decide which experiences are best for you. Additionally, I do believe that many pre-med students get caught up in the idea that shadowing and scribing are the only ways to gain clinical experience. While those are very important clinical opportunities, I encourage you to look for programs that you find interesting. If you don’t know where to start, do not worry! Listed below is a guide that I created to help you decide how to go about shaping your clinical experiences. 

Look locally

There are many opportunities for clinical experience in your community. For instance, mobile clinics, hospice facilities, and primary care practices are just a few of the places that you can start looking into. Additionally, if you are looking to work with more underserved populations in your community, volunteering at your local VA or free clinic is a great way to gain healthcare exposure. Medical school admissions committees do like to see students who are dedicated to learning from and serving their communities. As a pre-med with clinical experience in underserved communities, you have the ability to gain perspective on the unique challenges patients may face and how it relates to health outcomes.

For more information on your local opportunities, contact your health professions advisor.

Check nearby Emergency Departments (EDs)

Since the ED is such a busy place, there are always opportunities to gain clinical experience that can be used for medical school. For me, I became a volunteer, where I assisted nurses with direct patient care, navigated family members to their loved ones, and safely transported patients to and from the department to ensure comfort during stays in the ED. As a volunteer, I was able to provide a helpful role during difficult times. Additionally, there are paid clinical experiences that can occur in the ED, such as working as a scribe or medical translator

The ED is also a great place to shadow since you are able to see a variety of different cases and patients. You will also learn more about the stepwise approach that physicians take when a patient presents with a medical problem. Because most EDs are within a hospital, there is a wider range of hours to shadow. This makes it easier to schedule around other time constraints, such as school or extracurriculars.   

Go abroad

For students who love to travel, there are plenty of opportunities that exist that aim to provide a clinical experience abroad. Programs like this can be beneficial to future physicians, as it shows them a more worldly view of medicine and healthcare delivery systems. For instance, I had the opportunity to shadow with Atlantis, a program that provided me critical healthcare exposure and allowed me to build my own perspective of healthcare. 

For those who would like to study abroad but may not have the funds available, there are resources that may help you pay for your trip. More importantly, if you are interested in gaining clinical experience abroad, it is crucial that you take the time to research programs and find one that is safe for you and your potential host country.  

Get certified

Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT), Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), phlebotomy, and Medical Assistant (MA) certifications are a few of the many certifications you can pursue to gain a more long-term and hands-on clinical experience. While the training programs vary in length and cost, they are offered by local community colleges, vocational schools, and the Red Cross. It may take time for you to research and find if certifications are the right path for you. 

At the end of the day, medical schools are looking for three main things: healthcare exposure, high academic performance, and specific core competencies. Participating in a variety of clinical experiences is a great way to become a strong applicant for medical school. If you are concerned about balancing clinical experiences with your academic load, there are other extracurricular opportunities, such as Atlantis shadowing programs that occur over school breaks. Ultimately, what you choose to pursue should be something that you enjoy. Taking the time to find unique experiences is a great way to embody the qualities medical schools are looking for.

Cover of the Medical School Admissions Guide.

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

John Daines headshot.

John Daines

  • Atlantis '17
  • Brigham Young University '19
  • Washington U. in St. Louis MD '23
Zoey Petitt headshot.

Zoey Petitt

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

Yong-hun Kim

  • Atlantis '17
  • Stanford '19
  • Mayo Clinic MD '24
Megan Branson headshot.

Megan Branson

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

Sarah Emerick

  • Atlantis '19
  • Eckerd College '20
  • Indiana U. MD '25
Snow Nwankwo headshot.

Snow Nwankwo

  • Atlantis '19
  • Catholic U. of America '21
  • Georgetown U. MD '26
Tiffany Hu headshot.

Tiffany Hu

  • Atlantis '16
  • U. of Maryland '17
  • U. of Michigan MD '22
Lauren Cox headshot.

Lauren Cox

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

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.