Can Your Shadowing Hours Count Towards Your Clinical Experience?

The med school application process can be a stressful experience due to all the extracurriculars you need to include. Clinical experience is one of those things that med schools really want to see, so it’s important you get that done.

But sometimes life gets in the way and you may not have enough clinical experience to make a lasting impact. If you have a lot of shadowing experience, you may be thinking about counting that as your “clinical experience.

In this article, we will discuss if your shadowing experience can count as clinical experience as well as important factors you should consider.

Does Shadowing Count As Clinical Experience? (Quick Answer)

If you are looking for a quick answer, here it is:

No, technically shadowing does not count as clinical experience. Shadowing allows you to observe and learn about the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities of healthcare professionals, as well as the clinical environment in which they work. While shadowing does provide valuable experience and insights into the field of healthcare, it does not involve hands-on patient care.

Your clinical experience should involve patient care in some form or fashion. Even if your experience doesn’t have “hands-on” care (for example scribing) you should still be involved in the overall success of the medical team.

Further Reading: Can You Get Into Med School Without Research Experience

Differences In The AMCAS VS AACOMAS When It Comes To Shadowing Experience

If you are applying to MD and DO med schools, you may have noticed a difference between the two application services when it comes to listing your shadowing experience. 

Shadowing is its own category on the AMCAS but for the AACOMAS it’s lumped under the healthcare experience section. 

Even though there isn’t a dedicated shadowing section on the AACOMAS, don’t expect to substitute shadowing hours for clinical hours because med schools are still going to figure out that your shadowing experience is in fact shadowing experience. 

What Counts As Clinical Experience? 

Clinical experience for premed students refers to hands-on exposure to patient care in a healthcare setting. 

This can include a wide variety of activities, such as volunteering at a hospital or clinic, working as a nursing assistant or medical assistant, scribing, participating in a healthcare-related internship or externship, or completing a clinical research project. 

There are 2 major goals with these experiences:

  1. Allow premed students to observe and interact with patients and healthcare professionals.
  2. Gain a better understanding of what it is like to work in a clinical setting.

Examples Of Clinical Experience

There are a lot of options out there for clinical experience. Some of these positions don’t even require a certification! Here are some of the most common examples:

  • Scribing: A scribe is a person who assists a healthcare provider by documenting patient encounters in real time. Scribes typically work in a hospital or clinic setting and are responsible for accurately recording patient history, physical examination findings, and treatment plans.
  • EMT: An EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) is a trained healthcare provider who responds to emergencies and provides immediate medical care to patients. EMTs work in a variety of settings, including ambulances, hospitals, and clinics, and may be involved in transporting patients to medical facilities or providing on-site care. Your experience as an EMT will vary depending on your location.
  • Medical Interpreter: A medical interpreter is a person who helps facilitate communication between patients and healthcare providers when there is a language barrier.
  • Hospice worker/volunteer: Hospice workers and volunteers provide care and support to terminally ill patients and their families. They may work in a hospice facility or visit patients in their homes and may be responsible for providing physical, emotional, and spiritual support to patients and their families.
  • Certified Nursing Assistant: A certified nursing assistant (CNA) is a healthcare professional who works under the supervision of a nurse to provide basic care to patients. CNAs may work in hospitals, nursing homes, or other long-term care facilities, and may be responsible for tasks such as bathing, dressing, and feeding patients.
  • Medical Assistant: A medical assistant is a healthcare professional who assists doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers in a clinical setting. Medical assistants may perform a variety of tasks, including taking vital signs, preparing patients for examination, and assisting with medical procedures.

Further Reading: How To Find The Best Extracurricular Experience (Premed Guide)

Can You Get Into Med School Without Clinical Experience?

It is more difficult to get into medical school without clinical experience, as most medical schools place a strong emphasis on clinical experience when evaluating applicants. 

Clinical experience helps premed students develop the skills and knowledge that are necessary to succeed in medical school and beyond. 

That being said, it is possible to get into medical school without clinical experience, but you may need to compensate for this lack of experience in other ways. For example: having a strong academic record, participating in research, or obtaining letters of recommendation from healthcare professionals who can speak to your potential as a future medical student. 

Ultimately, the key to getting into medical school is to present a well-rounded application that demonstrates your commitment to pursuing a career in medicine and your potential to succeed in the field.

Further Reading: Can You Get Into Med School Without Shadowing Experience?

Can Clinical Experience Replace Shadowing?

Most of the time, clinical experience cannot replace shadowing experience. Shadowing is a specific experience that involves observing a healthcare professional as they work with patients. Shadowing is learning what the day-to-day experience of practicing medicine as a physician is really like. 

In other words, the purpose of shadowing is to confirm whether or not medicine is the right career path for you.

Clinical experience on the other hand is more for learning about the healthcare system, hands-on patient experience, and developing those clinical skills that are important for med school. 

That being said, some clinical experiences can replace shadowing to a certain extent. A perfect example is scribing. Although the main purpose is helping the clinic/hospital out with documentation, you are still observing physicians as they see their patients. 

Is Shadowing More Important Than Clinical Experience?

Shadowing and clinical experience are both important pieces of the premed puzzle. 

Through shadowing, you can observe and pick up knowledge from medical experts while they care for patients, getting a look into what a doctor’s day-to-day is like. Clinical experience, on the other hand, offers hands-on exposure to patient care and helps you hone the skills necessary for success in medical school. 

Both types of experience are valuable for premed students. Medical schools look for applicants with a strong foundation in clinical skills and a passion for pursuing a career in medicine – and gaining both shadowing and clinical experience can help demonstrate these qualities.

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