Our question this week is from a nontrad looking at making a switch to medicine. He is working full-time and he can’t find any clinical volunteering experiences.
[01:35] OldPreMeds Question of the Week:
“I’m a 26-year-old RF design engineer interested in pursuing medicine. I graduated with a degree in electrical engineering and a minor in web technologies. In college, I worked for a startup as a front-end web developer. I didn’t think the startup was the right decision for my career and left when I got an offer for my current job. I’ve been with the same company since 2014 and although I don’t hate my job, I just can’t picture myself doing it in the long run. I don’t feel like I’m really making a significant impact in people’s lives and the world. I want to do something where the work that I’d be doing would be helping someone directly. It’s something that I think I’ve always wanted to do but was steered in a different direction because of what I thought was more practical for me.
I made a decision to pursue medicine just a few months ago in April. Ever since then, I’ve mainly just planning things out, gathering information and looking for volunteer work. Here’s what I have so far at a high level:
- Get some clinical experience in a hospital/free clinic.
- Participate in community service projects and events.
- Get into a formal postbac program where I’ll participate in research. I’m planning to apply for Fall 2008 semester, medical school, residency, etc.
My biggest concern right now is actually getting clinical volunteering experience. The postbac program I want to get into seems to favor applicants that have some clinical experience. It makes sense. But everywhere I go, it seems that they don’t take any volunteers or they already have too many volunteers. I applied for the COPE Health Scholars Program and didn’t even get a response. I have a list of about 20 free clinics that I’ve called and so far none are taking any volunteers. Is there a better way to approach this? I’m thinking of signing up for hospital volunteering. Without having any such experience may be a factor in all this so I decided to take a CPR AED First Aid Certification Course to get some training and hopefully, network through the class as well. Has anyone else struggled with this? I also wanted to ask for those of you that have full-time jobs, when you made your decision, when did you actually quit? A big reason why I can’t get any volunteering positions is because of my full-time job. I was thinking of quitting to free up my schedule but it is very scary.”
Here are my thoughts:
[04:20] Telling Your Boss
This is a struggle many nontraditional students have. A lot of you are typically working full-time in order to be able to put food on the table while you’re in this crisis of trying to change careers and check all these boxes of experiences you need for medical school. But you keep hitting the wall because you’re so busy with everything else that life has thrown at you. The biggest question is how practical is it to quit the job? How soon can you make that happen? And how much can you cut down in your hours to free up more time elsewhere? First of all, have you talked with your boss about your new life plans?
I did the same exact thing. I was working at a gym and was one of the managers. I applied to medical school without telling the general manager until I actually had my acceptance letter. She asked my why I didn’t tell her when I could have had a connection there, since her dad is a pulmonologist at Washington University, which is one of the best medical schools in the country. You never know the connections that people have. More so, you can’t underestimate the support that somebody is going to give you. If they’re going to give you a hard time, then go find a temporary job elsewhere as you make this transition.
Hence, be honest with your boss, your co-workers and let them know your plans. Have them there for support and figure it out.
[07:35] Finding Volunteering Experiences
The way to find volunteering experiences is to just go find them. It sounds like this student is doing all the right things, calling places, making a list of free clinics, and calling hospitals. Do all of that and just keep calling.
[07:50] When to Quit Your Job
I was just wondering if looking for volunteering opportunities is really as hard as you’re making it out to be or if it’s just the schedule that’s the problem. I talked to Kain back on The Premed Years Podcast 174. He was a nontrad and now at University of Central Florida and his piece of advice that he’d give nontraditional students is:
I would recommend the same. Finances are obviously a huge part of this decision, so make sure you stock-pile some money. Figure it out. Move back in with mom. Do whatever you need to do to make this happen. Keep calling places and try to keep figuring out where to go.
[08:58] Make Sure Medicine Is For You
Lastly, this student specifically mentioned his “desire to make a significant impact in people’s lives in the world and something he could do to help somebody directly.” Let these words sink into you. Read this whole post again and notice that nowhere in there did he talk about healthcare or patient care.
It’s good that you’re going to get that experience to make sure this is really the medium that it’s going to take to have that desire of having impact on people’s lives.