Is Working in a Physical Therapy Clinic Good for Med School?

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Session 139

Getting clinical experience is hard. This student wants to know if working in a physical therapy clinic will help him with his medical school applications.

The questions here are taken directly from the Nontrad Premed Forum. If you haven’t yet, please register for an account and join the community of people who are on the same path as you. Also, check out all our other episodes on MedEd Media Network.

[00:55] OldPreMeds Question of the Week:

“I’m looking at a volunteering to work in the PT section of a hospital in an offsite facility for four hours a week during both semesters of my Senior year of college this coming school year. Here’s the hospital’s description of the physician – assists physical and occupational therapist with a variety of supportive duties, assists patients with activities or leaving the building and learn more about PT and OT. Would this be considered clinical experience for purposes of medical school applications?

This experience will likely be the only clinical experience I have before submitting my medical school applications next June. I do have about 60 hours of shadowing a variety of physicians and want to shadow some more this coming year to make sure I fully understand what I’m getting into. I only decided last summer that I wanted to go to medical school and had to take organic hem that summer to catch up with my premed requirements.

This summer, I’m involved in conducting clinical research for the PI and postdoc. I didn’t realize until listening to the podcast that clinical experience, aside from shadowing, should take precedence over research experience. After graduating from college next May, I am taking a gap year during which I plan to obtain additional clinical experience, either volunteering or in a paid position.”

[02:10] Is It Considered Clinical Experience?

Assisting a physical or occupational therapist is not a good clinical experience for your medical school applications. It is, technically, but not for medical school. The goal of the clinical experience is to get around patients. But they’re physical therapy and occupational therapy patients. Those are the kinds of patients you want to be around if you want to be a physical therapist or occupational therapist.

[Tweet “”You want to be around sick people as a physician. Those are the kinds of patients you want to be around to prove to yourself that you like being around sick people.””]

How do you know you want to be a doctor if you haven’t had any clinical experience to put yourself around sick people? It’s hard to be sure about this. Shadowing physicians is important but this is just one side of the coin – which is the physician side. And everything looks rosy from the physician side since you’re enamored with that position. You’re just excited to be there to see how it’s like.

But getting clinical experience puts you face to face with that patient – the smells of the patient, the anger, the crying, the screaming, dying, and death. Do you like that? That is the question you have to ask yourself and answer. And this is why you need clinical experience.

[04:50] What to Do Next

I would recommend that you take a gap year and get that clinical experience first. And then apply to medical school and you’ll have one more gap year during the application year so you can continue to do more clinical experience and get more exposure. You will have time to get more shadowing and have more time to work on your volunteering and other extracurriculars. Focus on finishing college strong, get that clinical experience, and don’t apply until you have a lot of clinical experience. How much is a lot? 5000 hours and more is better but at least 100 hours.

[Tweet “”Don’t apply with a weak application because of lack of clinical experience.””]

Back on Session 171 of The Premed Years Podcast where I interviewed the former Dean of Admissions at UC Urvine, she said the number one reason students didn’t get into their schools was lack of clinical experience. Don’t let that be you!


Nontrad Premed Forum

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The Premed Years Podcast Session 171: Interview with the former Dean of Admissions at UC Urvine