The medical field is one of the fastest growing fields in America, predicted to create over five million more jobs by 2020, which is why it’s not surprising that so many high school students, including myself, are scrambling to join the excitement. However as a high school student interested in the medical field, I quickly discovered that there can be a multitude of road blocks along the way. Some doctors aren’t interested in being shadowed, while others are afraid of violating HIPAA, a patient confidentiality law that is both valuable and the cause of my eternal frustration.
With many college programs, especially the accelerated medical programs, demanding us to get some real experience before committing to a fast track degree we must find ways to get around these blocks in order to succeed. Whether you want to be a nurse, physicians assistant, physician, dentist, or any other job in the medical field finding someone to shadow is one of the best ways to get a better understanding of what the job entails and if you can see yourself doing that every day.
Here are some things that I have learned along my journey.
This past August I got the opportunity to sit down with a woman who runs the physician’s assistant department at Hofstra University, and she had some great tips to share with me about volunteerism. She said that most of the time when you call a hospital just to ask about shadowing they will often reject you because you have nothing to offer them in return for their service to you. Instead what you should do is begin by volunteering at the hospital first, whether that be by changing sheets or delivering food.
Allow yourself a couple months of volunteering, and then ask them to let you shadow a doctor, this way they not only know they can trust you but they feel an obligation to help you since you helped them.
2. Reaching Out to Your Network
If you aren’t available or willing to put in the time to volunteer at a hospital, another option is asking a family member or friend to let you shadow them. The sheer number of people involved in medicine is huge, therefore it is likely that your parents, aunts, uncles, or cousins know of someone who you could shadow. One of the pros of this option is that it can be a lot faster than volunteering at a hospital, however it is important to keep in mind that if this person is a family member they will not be able to write you a letter of recommendation for college.
3. Enrolling in First Aid CPR, or EMT Classes
If you are unable to volunteer in the hospital and aren’t lucky enough to know someone in the medical field than fear not! Another great option is finding a class to take that relates to medicine. These classes will show college admissions counselors that you are serious about furthering your education, and it can give you a leg up if your test scores fall short. Taking an EMT class can also lead to hours of volunteer work once you graduate class, which will not only help you become acclimated to the medical environment but is a good way to help your community.
The most important thing to remember is that you never know what you like until you try it, so you have got to start early.