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Atlantis students kayaking off the coast of Spain (Barcelona, Spain, 2019).


Hospital Volunteering: the 7 Best Resources to Get You Started

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About Ryan

Ryan Hodge graduated from North Central College in May of 2021 as a biology major and Spanish minor on the pre-medicine track. After his sophomore year, he participated in the Atlantis Summer 2019 shadowing program in Tarragona, Spain.

I Want to Give Back. How?

All medical schools want to see you have done some type of shadowing during your years as a pre-medicine student. Volunteering shows admissions committees of medical schools that you will put yourself forward to help those who may be struggling, which is almost word-for-word the definition of a physician. On top of that, volunteering allows you to grow in personal ways. You learn to give, learn how different people live their lives, and observe some of the things they are going through by giving your time and energy. Some students may want to volunteer but aren’t sure where to start. Let’s look at 7 online resources that will help get you started on the path to healthcare volunteering. 

College Pre-Health Organization and Pre-Health Advisor

The AAMC outlines that students should first start at the institution they are currently enrolled in. Many times clubs and organizations at universities have healthcare volunteering opportunities established for pre-medicine students, whether that be at a local hospital or clinic. Additionally, reach out to your pre-health advisor, whose main job is to help pre-medicine students get into medical schools. Often, the advisors have attended conferences that outline key volunteer opportunities for pre-medicine students.

Healthcare Volunteering During the Time of COVID-19

Although the pandemic has put an end to many in-person volunteer activities for the moment, volunteerism is still very much present. Relief efforts during the pandemic have focused on giving back to healthcare workers by donating masks. You don’t have to be the person who spearheads the initiative (although that will be a bonus when discussing the activity in your medical school application). The most important part is finding a volunteer opportunity that speaks to your passions beyond the mere desire to contribute. 

U.S. News lists some other ideas on how to give back during the pandemic, including teaching senior adults new skills via a virtual platform such as Zoom, baking cookies or muffins for a neighbor, and sending emails or cards of encouragement particularly to those living in the hospital alone. All citizens should always do their part to help their fellow men and women. Having said that, pre-med students should select a safe and competency-based way of contributing to society during the coronavirus pandemic, especially those who have a chronic illness or who regularly have in-person contact with family members or others with an immune deficiency, cancer or chronic illness. 

Volunteer Abroad

Some shadowing programs will allow you to shadow physicians while also volunteering. The Atlantis program allowed me to shadow physicians of several different specialties in Tarragona, Spain during the summer of 2019. During my three-week trip, I shadowed orthopedic surgeons, general surgeons, internists, and ER physicians. I also was able to volunteer as an English tutor for the hospital employees, whose main language was Spanish.


VolunteerMatch is a great outlet for students to use. The foundation works nationwide and helps students find opportunities to volunteer in both hospital and community settings. The website states they are the “largest network in the nonprofit world.”

Additionally, Idealist offers advice and leads for people interested in volunteering, whether in their own communities or in far-off places. They also provide advice and tips for anyone interested in volunteering abroad, whether on their own or through a volunteer-sending organization.

Medical School Headquarters

This website stresses the importance of a strong MCAT score and good grades but mentions academic scores alone will not get you into medical school. It demonstrates your commitment to helping people, a quality which is much better shown by time spent on a volunteer project than by just saying “I love helping people” when asked why you want to be a doctor. It can provide you with experience in an area of health care you may not otherwise be exposed. 

Medical school applicants don’t have to have experience working in a hospital prior to matriculating as in other professional schools (business and architecture come to mind). Still, doing actual volunteer work in health care can give you a sense of what it’s like to work with patients. This experience can be extremely helpful when it comes to writing your personal statement, in that you can actually draw on that experience as opposed to just a generic statement saying that you’re smart and like helping people. It can also be a great thing to talk about at your medical school interviews.

Volunteering, and hospital volunteering, is a great way to benefit the community and those around you, grow personally, and demonstrate qualities that medical schools are looking for. I hope these suggestions are helpful in navigating the options available!

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

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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
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Yong-hun Kim

  • Atlantis '17
  • Stanford '19
  • Mayo Clinic MD '24
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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
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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.

A student smiling and learning how to kayak.

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.