Which Looks Better: CNA Work or Hospital Volunteering?

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Session 209

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[01:00] OldPreMeds Question of the Week

“I signed up for the gen bio class since it feeds into the higher-level courses and it sounds like the description posted on the medical school’s website. 

I’m wondering if it’s worth it to take a CNA class about $600 which is usually refunded if you work at a nursing home for at least three months and try to find a CNA work – or volunteer at a hospital or clinic? I’m wondering if medical schools will look highly upon CNA work as showing commitment or if I should just volunteer?

[01:50] Shadowing vs. Clinical Experience vs. Volunteering

Volunteering could mean volunteering at a soup kitchen, a nonprofit, your school, or wherever. It means you’re not getting paid.

'Volunteering just means you're volunteering your time, you're not getting paid.'Click To Tweet

Volunteering does not mean clinical experience. Clinical experience can be “volunteer” or paid. That’s the difference.

[Related episode: Can I Get in Enough Shadowing and Clinical Experience?]

[02:52] CNA Work for Clinical Experience

CNA work or LPN or medical assistant work is a great clinical experience. A lot of students don’t like it because it’s very intensive. You’re doing a lot of lifting with patients, moving and cleaning them. You could be checking inpatients, doing vitals, and taking histories, etc. What you’re doing basically depends on where you are.

'CNA work is very good clinical experience.'Click To Tweet

That being said, it puts you around patients and it allows you to interact with them. It’s giving you some good hands-on experience. 

[Related: Get Meaningful Clinical Experience as a CNA]

[03:40] Careful with the Language

Again, “volunteering” doesn’t tell what you’re doing. If you volunteered at a hospital or a clinic, as you’re doing clinical things like you’re doing as a CNA.

There are states that may have laws requiring you have to have schooling or license to be a medical assistant. And there are states that don’t have this. You may find a physician that will let you volunteer as a medical assistant. That’s doing very similar things as a CNA. And it’s just “volunteering” but it’s still clinical experience.

'Make sure the language you're using reflects what you're talking about.'Click To Tweet

[04:49] Paid Experience vs. Volunteering

Paid clinical experience and volunteering are the same. Paid or unpaid, it doesn’t matter. Taking a class to get that experience doesn’t necessarily mean anything more than you taking the initiative to find a place to volunteer and get similar clinical experiences.

The class or certificate doesn’t help with anything. It’s everything else that’s going to play a bigger role in this. 

'Clinical experience is clinical experience.'Click To Tweet


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