Healthcare Experience

What is it?

Healthcare experience outside of shadowing usually includes volunteering or finding employment in a healthcare setting, usually with direct patient contact (i.e. offering clinical care and not just working in a healthcare environment). Many students will consider getting a basic certification or may find opportunities that offer on-the-job training.

Examples of healthcare experience:

  • Volunteering with hospice
  • Working full-time as a paramedic
  • Taking a C.N.A. certification course and finding a position at a local hospital
  • Receiving on-the-job training to work as a Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy Tech
  • Getting an internship with the 30-Day Heart Challenge

Why should I do it?

Health professions programs will have greater confidence in your ability to interact positively with patients and withstand the rigor of a career in healthcare if they know you have already been part of the industry. As you work in healthcare, you will develop concrete examples of yourself showing compassion to patients, working with a team of healthcare providers, and solving problems. These experiences will likely assist you in your application, personal statement, letters of recommendation, and interviews.

Additionally, many health professions programs actually REQUIRE healthcare experience or patient contact. Please note that most PA schools actually require paid patient contact hours, up to 10,000 hours for some schools. Typically medical schools and sometimes pharmacy programs will also require patient contact hours.

What are the expectations?

Research the requirements for your health professions program to ensure you are meeting their expectations for healthcare experience. Some programs will specify the hours required and may require the experience to be paid.

Listed below are the recommendations for healthcare experience:

  • Pre-Medical: 100 hours of patient contact in at least 2 different settings
  • Pre-Dental: 50-100 hours of shadowing/experience
  • Pharmacy: 50 hours of patient contact; experience as a pharmacy tech is also helpful
  • Pre-Physical Therapy: 150-1,000 hours shadowing/experience
  • Pre-Occupational Therapy: 50-75 hours of shadowing/experience
  • Pre-Physician Assistant: 1,000-10,000 hours of paid, direct patient contact
  • Pre-Optometry: 40 hours shadowing/experience
  • Pre-Podiatry: 50 hours of patient contact
  • Pre-Veterinary: 1000-2000 hours shadowing/experience with a licensed vet

How do I do it?

How you choose to get healthcare experience will depend on the qualifications of the jobs or volunteer opportunities you are seeking. Many positions in healthcare require a certification (e.g. C.N.A., medical assistant, paramedic) while others are more flexible and require on-the-job training. Sometimes approaching organizations directly is more effective than simply responding to job ads online. Many students will also offer to volunteer for free, which sometimes leads to paid employment.

For assistance looking for and applying to healthcare jobs, contact the Career Development Center.