Job shadow with doctors and other medical professionals. Admissions committees don't expect applicants to have real experience actually treating patients. After all, you're not a doctor yet. But they do want to know that you've spent time getting to know what your future job would be like. Job shadowing is a great way to get some medical experience but there are other non-shadowing opportunities that may be available to you.
"Med school admissions committees want students to have realistic expectations for what a career in medicine will be like. says Dr. Sarah Carlson, a vascular surgery resident at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, who has also served on a medical school admissions committee. As an undergraduate, she volunteered to file x-rays at the local hospital, then parlayed that into an opportunity to talk with the radiologist. He explained both how to read x-ray films, and why he chose his profession. "It's those types of interactions that are important to have under your belt," she says. "Quite frankly, medicine isn't for everyone, so it's best if you do some soul-searching and spend some time with the people who have the job you want. Most doctors are happy to sit down with students who are considering a career in medicine."
Other ways to get medical experience include becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), a volunteer emergency medical technician (EMT), or as a hospital scribe doing data entry. Some applicants are able to gain clinical experience by helping to care for family members.
Demonstrate your hands-on science knowledge. "Undergraduate research experience really shines through on medical school applications. Most medical schools want students who are interested in research, and the best way to show that interest is to come in having already gotten your feet wet" says Dr. Carlson. She did pipetting and ran assays for Dr. Pushpa Murthy's lab at Michigan Technological University. It was a small part of the research, but she conveyed the overall impact. "I had to explain at my interviews that the larger scope of the research was about inositol phosphate metabolism."
Medical student Carly Joseph did long-term research in engineered biomaterials. "Sticking with it gave me time to learn how to think critically and ignited my passion for science," she says. "I started off simply learning about biomaterials from older students in the lab, then gradually worked up to doing my own experiments and eventually presenting at conferences." By choosing to make research a main priority each semester she was able to form close relationships with faculty mentors and accomplish more during undergrad than she ever imagined.
In addition to college-based research programs, you can investigate summer offerings, including those through the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates program or check out the AAMC database for summer undergrad research programs
Dr. Carlson volunteered with the Big Brothers-Big Sisters organization. So did Joseph. Rake leaves, build an accessibility ramp, clean the beach, walk a dog. There are lots of non-clinical options for volunteering that demonstrate your willingness to pay it forward and deliver back.
"They have many different programs and services." Joseph, accepted into Central Michigan University's College of Medicine, was part of the Forever Friends program, matched with an elderly woman she visited a few times each month. "I 've formed a great friendship with her, and hopefully, helped alleviate some loneliness. It 's a win-win!"
"Doctors are generally pretty altruistic people, and med schools want to see that you care about your community or have some drive to contribute to the greater good," says Dr. Carlson. "Community service comes in many forms, and really anything qualifies, from trash cleanup and mentorship programs to working the concession stand at a fund-raiser for a charity—anything that requires some unpaid time for a good cause."
Ask your pre-health professions advisor about volunteering opportunities on campus or in your community, which could include helping at local food banks or blood drives, local shelters for the homeless or those dealing with domestic violence. You could tutor, deliver good companionship and Meals on Wheels, or walk the dogs at a local animal shelter. Take an alternative spring break and work with Habitat for Humanity or on developing clean water sources for Third World countries. Check with your school for a list of community and global partners it works with who can use your time and talents. The mentors you develop will come in handy when it's time to gather recommendation letters—most schools ask for at least three—and the friendships you develop will last a lifetime.
Grades aren't everything, but they're extremely important. Choose a field of study that will yield a competitive GPA (grade point average). The recommended GPA for medical school applicants is 3.7 for MDs (medical doctors), 3.5 for DOs (doctors of osteopathy), and 3.4 for NDs (Doctor of Naturopathic). While many students who are planning careers in medicine decide to major in biology, Dr. Carlson earned her bachelor's in chemistry. Many of her colleagues majored in even more unexpected fields, including engineering, English, music, and classics.
"It 's OK if you 're not on the pre-med track right away when you start college; pursue experiences that genuinely interest you and rely on guidance from your faculty mentors to navigate your path"
There is no such thing as a pre-med major, says pre-health professions advisor Dr. Kemmy Taylor, who works with students preparing for medical careers at Michigan Technological University. "There are so many different programs students can apply to." You will still need to do well in both your cumulative and your science GPA, classes like biology, physics, chemistry, and math, that are required for medical school admission. If you are struggling in any classes, get help right away.
During her fourth year, Joseph had to take many of the medical school prerequisite classes that were not part of her engineering curriculum and build a Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) study plan into her schedule.
Improve your odds by not placing all your hopes on one school. Do individual research on each school, says Seigneurie; application requirements can vary from school to school and from year-to-year.
She also notes that you can reach out to admission committees with specific questions about the program and expectations. And, she says, don't be bummed if at first you don't succeed. Try again. "If you don 't get accepted into the school of your dreams, it 's OK! Schools have many applicants and can 't take everyone," says McKenzie, who was accepted into the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. "My dad, who has been a family physician for 29 years, often tells me, "An MD is an MD, it doesn't matter where you go to school."
"Don't take it personally when you get some rejections—they happen at every stage of the game. If you cast a wide net, you'll increase your likelihood of getting an acceptance."
Other ways to get noticed among the hundreds or even thousands of medical school applications submitted each year: send supplemental materials beyond your application. For example, "if you've published a paper, consider sending a copy of the publication with a handwritten note to the director of admissions, indicating you really hope to be considered for acceptance," she says.
MCAT scores range from 472-528. Accepted medical students average around 508. Recommended study time: 300-350 hours.
Take a course and buy books and study on your own. Find the method that works for you. Take practice tests many times and don't let your practice scores spook you, says McKenzie. "I used the Kaplan book series, and studied by reading, highlighting, and taking notes. The real MCAT was not as hard as the Kaplan test, in my opinion." The pre-health professions advisor can help you find the resources you need.
You can also join a pre-health professions club or association at your school, including Alpha Epsilon Delta, the national honor society for health pre-professionals. Members help each other get ready for tests, along with hosting speakers and events to help gain knowledge and experience.
"I speak Spanish almost every day at work," says Dr. Carlson. "It 's what I use the most from my premed education." Joseph spent a semester in Chile. "Focusing on language, culture, and people challenged me in a me in ways that technical classes couldn't and was critical in my preparation for medical school. If you 're thinking about studying abroad, do it. Communication and understanding different cultures are crucial skills for anyone entering the medical field, and medical schools look for applicants who make the effort to broaden their horizons culturally."
Medical volunteer programs abroad are another option to gain both life and health-care related experiences. Students are placed in hospitals and clinics in both rural and urban settings where staff is inadequate. Work, with professional guidance, can include giving vaccinations and other tasks interacting directly with patients, as well as helping to make facilities cleaner and more accessible. Programs are normally for people aged 18 and older
Show that you're interested in other things besides schoolwork. Dr. Carlson says having outside interests makes you stand out (she plays violin in an orchestra). "It's OK to indicate some of these personal interests on your med school applications—they deliver the interviewers something to relate to you with," she says. "I interviewed one applicant who only got a C in biochemistry, but he wrote lots of letters to the admissions committee highlighting his other strengths. We accepted him, and he turned out to be a star."
"Medical schools like to see commitment in their applicants, be it to sports, work, or extracurricular activities," says McKenzie. "It 's easier to not join clubs and just do homework and relax, but devoting time now to extracurricular commitments is worth it in the long run. These experiences also deliver you good opportunities to get to know people who can write the letters of recommendation."
Joseph says to choose activities based on what works best for you. Aim for quality rather than quantity.
"There 's a lot of pressure to have as many leadership roles as possible and be involved in tons of student organizations. For me though, having a few deep and lasting experiences was the way to go. I chose to invest my time in research, improving my Spanish, and volunteering," she says.
Research the schools you're interested in and look at mission statements, so you know something about the institution that you can share at the interview. Practice answering interview questions. When you arrive, be courteous to everyone you meet at the interview, including the receptionist.
"Schools are interested in learning what kind of student and person you are," says McKenzie. Schools invest in students and are looking for a good fit.
If you need help with effective body language, knowing how to dress professionally or for other tips, check out your school's Career Services office, which may offer mock interview opportunities and other techniques to help you present your best self.
Avoid generic answers like "I want to help people." There's no one right answer. Be specific. Tell your story.
McKenzie's dream centers on helping people close to home, in an underserved area that suffers from chronic physician shortages. "I have always wanted to return to the Houghton-Hancock area, where I grew up, and to serve my rural community."
For Joseph, the dream centers on combining a passion for science with helping others in a direct way.
Dr. Carlson 's dream started when she was five years old and her sister was born with cystic fibrosis. She reminds applicants to go beyond that initial inspiration during application interviews and explain how you've prepared for a grueling process that is not for everyone. "After medical school comes residency, and then—for some—fellowship, academic track positions, publications, and navigating an ever-evolving health care system," says Dr. Carlson.
Dr. Carlson has two more important suggestions to help you successfully apply to medical school:
"This is an unwritten rule that everyone does and nobody ever told me until I was several years into my training," says Dr. Carlson. "If you want to go to a particular school, find a way to have one of your mentors or advisors reach out to the admissions committee on your behalf."
For example, if you wanted to go to the University of Michigan ask your advisor or another mentor to call the director of admissions or any other person they know and advocate for you. Email can also be effective, she says. "It's a bonus if your mentor/advisor actually has a personal contact at the medical school you're interested in. "There is a culture of 'I can vouch for this person' that goes very far in the medical world. A phone call won't get you in if your application is terrible, but if you're on the cusp of acceptance and someone makes a call on your behalf, it can deliver you the push you need to be accepted."
"It's OK to highlight the accomplishments you're proud of; put these in your required personal statement or find a way to work them into conversation during interviews. The key is to do it humbly but confidently: 'I was fortunate enough to win a teaching award from my time as a chemistry lab TA, and that's something I'm really proud of.' It's OK to be proud of your own achievements! Selectively highlighting a few make your application stand out from the rest."
Medical students must be dedicated and focused. "A significant amount of personal sacrifice comes along with the training, and if you don't have a great motivation, you won't find the sacrifice worth the reward," says Dr. Carlson. If you can answer yes to these questions, or you're willing to find the resources to work to develop any of these vital skills you could improve, you increase your chances of being able to accomplish what it takes to be accepted into medical school.
Compassionate people are kind. They are aware of suffering in the self and other living things, and they want to help alleviate suffering. Mature people are able to accept responsibility. They are considerate of others, patient, and supportive of others, among other qualities. Emotionally intelligent people are aware of their emotions. They can harness and apply their emotions to problem-solving and other tasks and manage emotions—like being able to cheer up yourself, or other people, or to infuse calm into a situation.
Hard-working people are conscientious about correctly performing duties and tasks on time. They are willing to put in the hours necessary to achieve goals.
High-achieving people are motivated to set and complete ambitious goals. They have a passion to excel in the field they choose to work in and are not daunted by obstacles.
Socially conscious people strive to stay informed and aware about the world around them, including how people interact with the economy, education, and both physical and social environments.
People with quantitative skills can perform analyses and other concrete and measurable tasks. Two examples of quantitative skills are data interpretation and math. People with qualitative skills are able to perform broad skills. Resilience and creativity are two examples of qualitative skills.
Michigan Tech's placement rate into medical school is 60 to 70 percent (well above the national average) and is nearly 100 percent for physical therapy school. Choose a pre-health profession and prepare for your future today.
Whether your goal is medical school or dental school, clinical experience during your undergraduate career is a must. Here are some common ways to gain it at SUNY Cortland.
Most hospitals house a Volunteer Department that students can contact to gain experience with patients. It may only be in patient transport or calling patients to review their hospital experience, but any contact with patients is beneficial.
Additionally, nursing homes and hospice centers need volunteers for a variety of tasks. Many volunteer opportunities also exist at important healthcare organizations such as rape/suicide crisis centers, HIV/AIDS resource clinics or Planned Parenthood.
One of the most common locations for our students to volunteer is the Cortland Medical Center. For more information, contact Jarrod Kolodziejczyk, the hospital’s director of volunteer services.
SUNY Cortland boasts a close-knit, award-winning Emergency Medical Services (EMS) student group that provides quality emergency care service 24 hours per day, seven days per week on campus.
The function of the squad has grown into a first response unit, as well as an organization which educates the campus community. The College also financially supports students in taking training courses such as the EMT basic course, which allows students to administer basic life saving techniques on a patient.
Learn more about EMS on its campus group page.
Pre-dental students can find volunteer opportunities to work locally at community health clinics, local schools or even globally to promote oral care in underserved populations.
A full list of opportunities and community health centers can be found on the American Dental Association website.
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) offers many tips on setting up a shadowing experience with a doctor, including how to find one, how to ask them and even what you should wear.
Members of SUNY Cortland’s Pre-Medical Advisory Committee can offer their expertise if you are interested in a shadowing experience.
SUNY Cortland students can participate in a special study abroad trip to Cuernavaca, Mexico during winter break designed to expose pre-health professionals to healthcare in a developing country.
Students develop Spanish language skills to be effective healthcare providers, observe medicine in a variety of clinical settings and gain cross-cultural experiences that will add to their cultural competence.
A CNA works under the direction of a nurse, assisting in basic tasks such as obtaining vital signs and weight/height measurements as well as bathing and dressing people who cannot do these tasks alone. Generally, a CNA is required to complete a 75-hour training course and pass an assessment exam.
Phlebotomists are the technicians that draw blood for laboratory analysis. They need to know everything about blood collection, including handling of needles, tubes, bags and related equipment, as well as the regulations associated with blood collection. A phlebotomy technician course is required, along with passing a national certification exam. Phlebotomy gives students a flexible, paid position to gain patient contact hours.
In this role, you follow Emergency Room clinicians around during clinical encounters and document medical history and physical exams in the electronic medical record. Scribing allows you to observe the patient-doctor interaction, learn medical terms and documentation skills and develop an understanding of challenges in healthcare.
Hospitals usually work with scribe companies that train and match students with area hospitals. Scribe America is a company that places students locally. Many require a yearlong commitment, which means that you will work part-time during the semester.
Getting enough good-quality sleep is essential for a person’s physical and mental health. Some simple sleep hygiene practices and home remedies can help people sleep better.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that people aged 18–60 years get 7 or more hours of sleep each night. However, 7–19% of adults in the United States are not getting enough sleep, according to survey results, while an estimated 50–70 million people have an ongoing sleep disorder.
Chronic sleep deficiency can increase a person’s risk of certain health conditions, including obesity, heart disease, depression, and diabetes. Tiredness can increase the likelihood of injuries, for example, due to drowsy driving or operating heavy machinery without full concentration.
In this article, we look at some tips and home remedies for getting a better night’s sleep. We also cover when to see a doctor.
Regular exercise offers many health benefits, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, increased muscle tone, and better weight control.
Exercising for 20 to 30 minutes during the day can help a person sleep better.
However, people should avoid strenuous physical activity 2–3 hours before going to bed, as this may have the opposite effect.
If a mattress is old or not a good fit for a person, it can lead to sleep issues. According to the National Sleep Foundation, good-quality mattresses tend to last for about 9 or 10 years.
When purchasing a new mattress, it is important to choose one that is both comfortable and supportive.
Although alcohol has a sedative effect that can help a person get to sleep, it can also disrupt sleep patterns and increase the likelihood of a person waking up in the middle of the night.
Drinking alcohol before bed may also increase the risk of snoring and sleep apnea.
The human body has a natural sleep-wake cycle. Sleeping and waking up at varying times on different days of the week can disrupt this cycle, which may lead to sleep issues.
Where possible, people should try to stick to regular bedtimes and wake up times, including at weekends.
It is important to make the bedroom a comfortable environment for sleeping. A person can do this by:
Unwinding before going to bed can help a person get a better night’s sleep. Relaxing activities can include:
Avoiding the use of screens, such as televisions, phones, and tablets, before bed can also make it easier for a person to relax their mind.
Eating large or overly spicy meals in the hours before bed may cause indigestion that disrupts a person’s sleep. People should generally try to avoid eating heavy meals a couple of hours before bedtime. If they are hungry during this period, they can eat a light snack instead.
Drinking too much liquid before bed can affect sleep duration and quality. When people drink too many fluids, this can cause them to wake up several times during the night to urinate.
People who find it hard to get to sleep at night should try to avoid daytime napping, as this can make falling asleep at night more difficult. If a person does need to nap, it is best to limit the nap to less than 1 hour and avoid napping after 3 p.m.
Creating a strong association between the bedroom and sleeping can also help people get better sleep. Doing this involves:
Caffeine is a stimulant that can help Excellerate a person’s energy levels and focus. However, when people consume caffeine in the evening, this can make it more difficult to fall asleep and may also affect sleep quality.
The results of a small 2013 study suggest that consuming caffeine up to 6 hours before bedtime can negatively affect a person’s quality of sleep.
Melatonin is a hormone that plays an essential role in regulating a person’s sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin is available as a dietary supplement, and many people take it to treat insomnia, jet lag, and other sleep issues.
Melatonin supplements are available in health stores and other retailers. However, it is advisable to speak with a doctor before taking melatonin or giving it to a child.
If a person is having trouble falling asleep at night, they should try to avoid tossing and turning. Instead, it can help to leave the bedroom and do something relaxing for a while before returning to bed.
People who are still having sleeping difficulties after trying to Excellerate their sleep habits should seek medical advice. A doctor can assess a person for sleep disorders and other conditions that can affect sleep. They can also advise on possible treatment options.
Getting enough sleep can Excellerate a person’s energy levels, performance, safety, and overall health. Practicing good sleep hygiene and making certain lifestyle changes can help people get a better night’s sleep.
People who continue to have sleeping difficulties after trying to Excellerate their sleep habits should speak to a doctor.
During their college years, many students take advantage of their school's study abroad program. These types of programs allow students to spend one (or more) semesters in a foreign country, while continuing to take classes.
This is an amazing opportunity to travel to a new place and engage in practical learning, beyond what you'll find in textbooks.
If your study abroad semester is coming up, or if it is something you think you'd like to do in the future, here are ways to make the most out of your time.
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Take time to write down the goals you have before you leave. If writing isn't really your thing, you can also make a vision board to display your goals in photographs.
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Whether you write down just a few key items, or you have a long list, writing goals early can help remind you of the things you want to accomplish while you are on your trip. Also, these goals are not the only ones you can have. You can always add more to your list during your travels.
Travel documents can take a long time to get prepared, so it's vital to gather them as soon as you can, rather than scrambling at the last minute.
The main documents you'll need are a passport and a visa, depending on the length of your program.
You likely won't be making income while you are studying abroad, so you'll want to save up money beforehand that will have you covered while you're away.
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The sooner you decide you'll be studying abroad, the better, since you'll be able to work extra hours before you leave and start putting money aside.
This will also be an important time to make a budget, so you aren't overspending during the semester. Create a rough budget to stick to before you leave, and then make any adjustments necessary once you get there.
Studying abroad is a great opportunity to learn a new language. You'll get a better grasp of the language once you spend time around people using it, but it will be helpful to begin learning the basics before you go.
If you are heading to a place you've never visited, or spent minimal time in, you'll want to conduct basic research on the country before you leave.
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Do research to determine landmarks and sights you want to see while you're abroad and find some information on the laws and proper etiquette in the foreign country.
Once you arrive, get in the habit of writing in a journal at the end of each day. Write down everything you did, what you learned and what you're looking forward to. You'll be thankful you kept a journal to look back on after your trip. Also, take lots of pictures and create a scrapbook of your journey.
If writing really isn't your thing, another option is to create a video diary of your trip, where instead of writing, you take a short clip on your phone or camera each day talking about what you did. You can combine this with pictures and videos of you exploring so you can show everyone back home.
Studying abroad affords you opportunities to meet many new people, both students in your program and locals.
Locals can teach you so much about the country and can also help you learn the language.
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Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so take advantage of the experience at hand. Visit everything you wanted to visit, spend time fully embracing the culture and learn as much as possible.
While this is easier said than done, take studying abroad as a chance to be extra extroverted and eager to learn.
If you sit back and wait for things to come to you, you're probably not going to have the experience you imagined. Ask questions, be present and enjoy every minute.