Clinical experience is one of the most scrutinized components of your medical school application. It can be easy to think of the clinical experience part of your pre-med career as a “box to check” or a stepping-stone to your medical school career. However, at Code Blue Essays, we see the bigger picture. Clinical experience – whether you will be shadowing a local family medicine doctor, working at a phlebotomy clinic, or volunteering at a hospital – is an opportunity, and not simply an obligation. Below, find some tips on how to make the most out of your clinical experiences! 

Choose the right field 

  • Clinical experiences are an opportunity to explore interests. You may find out before medical school even starts that you thrive in a fast-paced ICU setting. Conversely you may discover that you’re not cut out for a high-stress environment and are better suited to a more predictable office setting. Experience is the only teacher for that kind of knowledge. When arranging your clinical time, choose the specialty/focus carefully. This will likely be your first experience “in the trenches,” so make it a valuable one by strategically selecting where you’ll complete your hours. 

Aim for fewer gigs over a longer period 

  • “Quality, not quantity” applies to pre-med clinical experience just as it does to many areas of life. Spending more time in one clinical setting will yield a richer experience overall. You’ll be able to do a deep dive into the day-to-day life of the medical professionals there. If you dip your toe into many experiences, you’ll likely get the same surface encounters and never really feel connected.  

Document everything 

  • Your clinical experiences are your own to keep track of. There’s often no attendance sheet and in most cases, you will not be required to formally reflect upon your experiences as you go. However, keeping accurate records your clinical experience is extremely beneficial. 

Physicians have to document everything, so starting now is a great way to start building the skills you’ll need later. As a pre-med student, almost everyone who has made it to medical school will tell you that documenting your clinical experience is obligatory. Your documentation will yield you the information you can include about your clinical exposure in your personal statement, curriculum vitae, secondary essays, and interviews. You’ll need to recall this information up to a year or more after you experienced it, so writing everything down is a must.  

Code Blue Essays has created a tool that simplifies documenting your clinical experience. Our Clinical Experience Journal helps you store all the data you’ll collect throughout your clinical time in an organized way. That way, it’s easy for you to recall necessary details about what you did and who you encountered. 

Reflect on your experience shortly after you complete it

  • One essential part of your clinical experience documentation should be notes reflecting on what you have learned in the clinical setting. Writing down your thoughts and observations soon after you complete your hours is absolutely crucial. Your memory could fail you if you wait days or even weeks to record your encounters. Using our Clinical Experience Journal is the ultimate way to track the details from your time in the hospital or clinic, so be diligent about completing your notes in your journal soon after a shift.  

Determine who may be a good candidate to write you a letter of recommendation 

  • An important part of clinical experience is networking. You will be working alongside physicians who have once been in your position and who can provide valuable assistance. Ask questions and create relationships! It will be easier to build stronger relationships if you seek longer-term positions- so remember this when you choose where you’ll spend your time. As you build relationships with physicians, begin to determine who might be willing to write you a strong letter of recommendation. Remember, you will need between two and five letters, so cultivate relationships with those who can write meaningful, glowing recommendations for you. As a bonus, Code Blue Essays’ Clinical Experience Journal even includes a method for tracking recommendation letters and contacts.  

Gaining experience in a clinical setting does not have to be a tedious process as you prepare to complete your medical school application. The hours you serve can be robust with valuable insights and connections. Gain the most from your clinical experiences by following our guidelines. Code Blue Essays has advice and guidance for your entire medical school application journey. Reach out to us for help perfecting your application!