Experience is among the biggest hurdles you need to clear in order to enter any competitive profession. However, clearing this hurdle can be especially challenging for those entering the medical field because it’s unlikely you can get into medical school without some experience under your belt.
Unlike other professions, the field of medicine offers internship opportunities only upon graduation from medical school. So, the question for many high school and college students aspiring to become doctors is this: How do I get the patient care experience I need to get into medical school if I’m not a doctor?
Our solution? Perhaps the best clinical experience for pre-med can be obtained by training for and working as an emergency medical technician (EMT). As an EMT, you get diverse hands-on patient care experience in a fast-paced, high-intensity treatment environment while working closely with firefighters, police officers, doctors, and other emergency-response and medical professionals. And you gain exposure and experience with patients who have a variety of medical conditions in a broad range of emergency response scenarios.
Discover efficient and effective paths to medical school, and ways to get the clinical experience needed to increase your chances of being accepted.
The Path to Medical School
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the recommended approach to getting into medical school includes:
- Explore your medical career options.
- Get some experience.
- Stay on track for medical school.
- Get more experience and explore resources.
- Team up with your advisor to build a game plan.
- Register and prepare for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
- Prepare for med school interviews.
- Receive letters of acceptance or rejection.
- Prepare for medical school.
Steps 2 and 4 call for gaining experience — hands-on patient care experience. The people who run medical schools are only looking for serious candidates — intelligent individuals who are passionate about the field. They seek those committed to completing a rigorous and prolonged education and training program.
They don’t want to fill their limited openings with candidates who are likely to drop out after their first encounter with a cadaver. Nor do they want to discover later that a well-trained doctor has a personality that’s not conducive to working with patients or collaborating with other medical professionals.
Clinical Experience for Pre-Med through EMT Training
One of the best ways to gain the clinical experience that med schools demand of their applicants is through EMT training and certification through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians.
Here at the National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE), we offer the following three training programs, all certified through the National Registry:
- Standard EMT training: An in-person 21-day intensive course
- Hybrid EMT training: An online and in-person 21-day intensive course with 25 to 30 hours of web-based study and testing, 10 days of virtual instruction delivered online, and 11 days of practical hands-on training
- Wilderness EMT training: A hybrid online and in-person 27-day intensive course consisting of two modules — Module 1 consisting of 5 days of wilderness medicine training, and Module 2 consisting of 21 days of intensive on-site training — along with 30 to 50 hours of pre-course study and testing
All three are available at our Wilmington, North Carolina, campus. Additionally, we are now offering the 11-day in-person portion of our Hybrid EMT training in Oregon’s Tygh Valley.
Regardless of the location, our Hybrid EMT training includes the following:
- 25 to 30 hours of web-based study and testing using our eLearning platform: The benefit to this approach is that you learn at your own pace on your schedule, not ours.
- 10 days of virtual instruction: Days 1 through 10 of your Hybrid EMT training require participation in live online lectures conducted remotely via our eLearning platform. After you pass the required module exams and a comprehensive final exam, you’ll be approved for the next phase in your EMT training.
- Five days of in-person, hands-on skills training: During days 11 through 15 of your training, you apply everything you learned to assess and treat a variety of medical emergencies in a hands-on experiential setting.
- Psychomotor testing: If you do your in-person training at our North Carolina location, you will undergo a Technical Scope of Practice evaluation on Day 16. This evaluation requires that you demonstrate what you learned by completing full scenarios involving assessment, treatment, and transport of a patient undergoing an emergency.
- Clinical and field experience: All NCOAE EMT students complete 48 hours of clinical time in the area emergency department and on-board EMS ambulances. With that in mind, the focus of Days 16 through 20 for Oregon students (Days 17 through 20 for North Carolina students) is to allow you to apply your new skills in real life under the guidance of trained healthcare practitioners.
- Graduation: The last day of your training — Day 21 — is a chance for us to celebrate your success. Here, you’ll receive your certificate of completion, take a few pictures with your classmates, give and receive some hugs and high-fives, and prepare for your journey home.
Throughout your on-campus training, you’ll have 24-hour access to our restrooms, shower facilities, kitchenette, wi-fi, and on-site classrooms. Housing options include staying on site with fellow students in a rustic cabin, pitching your own tent, or exploring a variety of local rental and hotel options.
Gaining the skills necessary to become certified as an EMT in Oregon, North Carolina, and other states around the country is made easy with our 21-Day Hybrid EMT Training Course, which has open training dates and locations throughout the year.
To learn more about our EMT training courses in Oregon and North Carolina, or to register for an upcoming course, please visit our Emergency Medical Training webpage or call our office anytime during East Coast business hours at (910) 399-8090.
Other Options for Obtaining Patient Care Experience
After completing your EMT training and experience, explore other ways to gain valuable patient care experience:
- Shadow a physician. Network, starting with your primary care physician and others you know in the medical field, to find a licensed doctor who’s willing to let you observe during patient visits. In addition to getting valuable clinical exposure, shadowing gives you the opportunity to build a relationship with a potential mentor.
- Volunteer in a medical setting. You may also be able to find volunteer opportunities in the medical field as an EMT, in an emergency room, in a medical center, or as a hospice volunteer. Hospice care focuses mostly on maintaining quality of life for very sick and often terminally ill patients. To learn about becoming a hospice volunteer, visit the Hospice Foundation of America’s Volunteer Page.
- Participate in the Summer Health Professions Program. This is a free six-week enrichment program focused on improving access to information and resources for undergraduate students who are interested in pursuing medical careers. For additional details, check out the SHPEP Program Overview.
- Get a job in the medical field. When you have your sights set on a career as a doctor, you can often get your foot in the door by securing what might be considered by some to be an “entry level” position. For example, certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are in high demand, and the training program is short — 4 to 16 weeks. Look into programs at local community colleges, vocational schools, and the Red Cross, or contact local organizations that are looking to fill positions. These organizations may be willing to cover the cost of your training. Other positions to consider are medical scribe (taking notes for doctors), phlebotomist (taking blood from patients and donors), emergency room tech, and pharmacy tech.
As an organization that is committed to experiential education, we are well aware of the fact that intelligence, education, and training can get you only so far on the path to success in any career. The fourth ingredient — experience — is essential, and it is perhaps most essential in the medical profession, where each patient’s physical health and well-being hang in the balance.
Regardless of the path you take to get into medical school, you will need to gain experience before, during, and after medical school. We strongly recommend EMT training as a solution for getting that practical, hands-on patient care experience.